Pat Hickey slams report calling for outright Russian Olympic ban

Head of OCI questions integrity of independent report to be released on Monday

OCI chairman Pat Hickey has slammed a report calling for an outright Russian Olympic ban, which is due to be released on Monday. Photograph: Inpho

OCI chairman Pat Hickey has slammed a report calling for an outright Russian Olympic ban, which is due to be released on Monday. Photograph: Inpho

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A new report expected to call for an outright ban on Russia from competing at next month’s Rio Olympics has already been slammed by Pat Hickey, president of the Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI), who has questioned both its “integrity” and “credibility” just prior to publication.

Hickey, a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) executive board, has also admitted to being “shocked” that both the US and Canadian anti-doping agencies are backing this outright ban on Russia, asking “what mandate they have to lead an international call for a ban of another nation in the Olympic family.”

The exact content of the report by Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren will only be made public at a press conference in Toronto tomorrow (Monday) morning: the latest in a series of independent investigations set up by the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada), it deals specifically with allegations of state-sponsored doping at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, and the clandestine operations of Grigory Rodchenkov, the former head of Moscow’s anti-doping laboratory.

In a letter leaked to news sources over the weekend, the McLaren report is highlighted by both the US Anti-Doping Agency (Usada) and the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sports (CCES) as sufficient grounds for an outright ban on Russia from competing in the Rio Olympics - now just under three weeks away. Russia’s track and field athletes are already banned, and have lost all appeals against their re-inclusion.

According to the letter, signed by Usada chief executive Travis Tygart, amongst others, “we write on behalf of a community of clean athletes and anti-doping organizations with faith that the IOC can lead the way forward by upholding the principles of Olympism” and that “the only appropriate, and permissible, course of action in these unprecedented circumstances is for the IOC to immediately suspend the Russian Olympic and Paralympic Committees from the Olympic Movement.... and declare that no athlete can represent Russia at the Rio Olympic Games”.

Hickey himself then came across this letter attached to an email sent to a number of athletes and anti-doping organisations by Beckie Scott, chair of the Wada Athletes Commission, asking for them to counter-sign it, before it’s forwarded to IOC president Thomas Bach.

“This letter calls upon the IOC to instigate a wholesale ban of the Russian Olympic Committee team in Rio 2016,” says Hickey, who is also serving as the President of the European Olympic Committees (EOC). “This unprecedented call for such a ban is based on what the US and Canadian National Anti-doping Agencies say are the findings of the independent McLaren Report.

“The email from Beckie Scott and the attached letter has shocked and concerned me on a number of levels.

“Firstly, the McLaren report is meant to be a totally independent report that must remain totally confidential until its publication (on Monday, July 18th, 2016 at 09:00 in Canada). It is clear from the email and letter that both the independence and the confidentiality of the report have been compromised.

“My concern is that there seems to have been an attempt to agree an outcome before any evidence has been presented. Such interference and calls ahead of the McLaren Report publication are totally against internationally recognised fair legal process and may have completely undermined the integrity and therefore the credibility of this important report.

“Secondly, I have checked with the chairperson of the EOC Athletes Commission and he has not been consulted about the request in the Scott email for European signatories. Yet I note from her email that three European NADOS (national anti-doping organisations) ‘amongst others’ have been approached to sign. It is clear that only athletes and organisations known to support a ban of the Russian Olympic team have been contacted.”

Hickey’s concerns don’t end there: he blasts both Usada and CCES for their apparent lead in this call for the outright ban Russia, and “whilst I fully understand and share international concerns over the recent doping allegations, we cannot allow any individuals or groups to interfere or damage the integrity of fair and due legal process.”

It has also been suggested that Usada’s stance is somewhat contradictory given several members of the US Olympic team for Rio, announced last weekend, have previously served doping bans, including athletes such as Justin Gatlin, LaShawn Merritt and Tyson Gay.

According to Paul Melia, president of CCES, who oversee anti-doping in Canada, “if Monday’s report confirms the Rodchenkov allegations, then the IOC will have no choice but to ban all Russian athletes from this summer’s Olympic Summer Games in Rio” and that “must be the same consequence for the Russian contingent at the Paralympics in September”.

All of which makes the publication of the McLaren report all the more pressing, and specifically any recommendations based on Rodchenkov’s damning claims, detailed to the New York Times in May, that up to 15 Russian medal winners at Sochi were implicated in the state-sponsored scheme where athletes ingested a “three-drug cocktail” of banned steroids, mixed with alcohol, plus the covert system of replacing the urine of affected Russian medal winners with clean samples using soda containers and baby bottles.

Hickey, however, may have already indicated exactly what the IOC will make of it.

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