Russian athletes escape blanket ban from IOC

International Olympic Committee leaves exclusion decision to sports federations

The International Olympic Committee faces an unprecedented backlash from anti- doping groups and athletes after it decided not to impose a blanket ban on the Russian team competing in next's month's Rio Games.

Instead it ruled that the 28 individual sports federations that make up the summer Olympics were free to decide the fate of Russians on a case-by-case basis.

Dick Pound, the former World Anti-Doping Agency president who authored last November's damning report into state-sponsored doping in Russia, claimed the IOC's decision had revealed there "was zero tolerance for doping, unless it's Russia".

“The IOC had a huge opportunity to make a statement,” he said. “It’s been squandered.”


The 59-Member Institute of National Anti-Doping Organisations called the IOC decision “a sad day for clean sport”.

Britain’s Olympic long jump champion, Greg Rutherford, called the IOC’s decision to pass the buck to its individual federations, “a spineless attempt to appear as the nice guy to both sides . . . Unfortunately what we’ve been given is the absolute worst of all worlds.”

Just as scathing was Goldie Sayers, the British javelin thrower who looks set to be awarded a bronze medal from the Beijing 2008 after being beaten into fourth by a Russian whose sample from the event was recently found to be positive. "The IOC is effectively saying it is okay to run a state-sponsored doping programme," she told the Guardian. "It goes against the value of the Olympic movement and everything that clean athletes believe in."

Respect rights

However, IOC president

Thomas Bach

insisted it was important to respect the rights of individual athletes.

Under the IOC’s ruling, each federation will be required to produce a list of Russian athletes they believe are clean. This will be checked by an arbitrator from the IOC and court of arbitration for sport. Any Russian with a doping conviction is automatically barred.

With less than two weeks before the Olympics open, vetting more than 300 Russians will not be an easy task. Sayers warned of another problem.

“When it comes to making decisions about which Russians to let in, there’s going to be a huge lack of consistency between governing bodies,” she said. “I just believe the IOC have passed the buck and not shown decisive leadership.”

Within hours of the decision, the International Tennis Federation had cleared all seven Russian players to compete. “The . . . players who have been nominated to compete in Rio have been subject to a rigorous anti-doping testing programme outside Russia,” the federation said in a statement. “The ITF believes that this is sufficient to meet the relevant requirement of the IOC Executive Board.”

Russian judo

Other sports hope to follow suit. Last week

Marius Vizer

, president of the

International Judo Federation

, said: “The presence of Russian athletes is very important as the

Russian Judo Federation

is a prominent member of the International Judo Federation, with Russian judo playing a great role in the history of sport.”

However, the International Weightlifting Federation may have to issue a blanket ban on Russians because of the country's large numbers of positive tests in that sport.

The IOC decision comes after months of agonising about how to deal with the cascade of revelations of state-sponsored doping in Russia.

Last month the IAAF, athletics’ governing body, banned all Russian track and field athletes from international competition unless they could prove they had been comprehensively tested outside the Russian system. Only two athletes, Darya Klishina, who trains in Miami, and whistleblower Yuliya Stepanova were given permission to go to the Games if they competed under a neutral flag.

However, in another controversial decision, the IOC decided against allowing Stepanova – whose revelations of widespread state-sponsored doping were a vital part of the Pound report – to compete in Rio because it claimed its rules do not recognise neutral athletes, and because she had previously doped.

The United States Anti-Doping Agency slammed the IOC’s decision, calling it “incomprehensible” and adding that it would “undoubtedly deter whistle-blowers in the future from coming forward”.

The agency said the IOC’s decision not to act decisively over Russia was a “significant blow” to the rights of clean athletes. Guardian Service