The International Olympic Committee is standing by a doping ban against Russia from the IAAF athletics body. However, the IOC president made it clear that some Russians might compete in Rio’s track and field events.
IOC President Thomas Bach walked a tightrope on Tuesday in Lausanne. First, he stressed that the Olympics recognized and supported a doping-related ban on Russian athletes handed down by the IAAF, world athletics’ governing body. However, Bach also said that demonstrably clean athletes should be able to compete, and under Russia’s flag, not an Olympic or a neutral one. He even added that Russia and Kenya’s IAAF exclusions could be subject to appeal – either by individuals or the national athletics federations – saying the IOC would also respect any court ruling rendered in time for the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
“We respect this decision,” Bach said of the ban, before continuing: “We have been advised today that Russian athletes and maybe the Russian federation could appeal this case in court – so we are awaiting the results of these potential court cases.”
Also in Lausanne for the IOC’s anti-doping summit, Russia’s Olympic committe head, Alexander Zhukov confirmed on Tuesday that Russia had appealed the doping suspension at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Bach: Mexico and Spain’s problems only ‘administrative’
Going into the summit, doping-related questions hovered around four countries: Spain, Mexico, Kenya and Russia.
Bach said that the president of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) had described Spain and Mexico’s suspensions as “administrative” problems, not ones putting the countries anti-doping system itself in question.
For Kenya and Russia, he acknoweldged, the issues ran deeper – although he pointed out that the two countries’ alleged shortcomings differed in nature.
“In Russia, this has very different reasons. In Kenya you have a lack of funding and a lack of attention from agencies, [while] in Russia you have serious allegations about the manipulations of the doping system,” Bach said.
Demonstrably clean athletes, who could show they had not cheated, should be able to compete in the Games, Bach said. When asked about the possibility of clean Russian athletes competing under a different flag – a scenario previously mooted by the IAAF – he said that this would not work at the Olympics.
“This decision, we have discussed this with IAAF, this decision applies to IAAF competitions, because in IAAF there is no national federation,” Bach said. “The Russian national federation is suspended and therefore IAAF has chosen this option in order to allow the athletes to compete in their competitions. When it comes to the Olympic Games, all athletes then are part of the Russian Olympic Committee and so this is a different situation.”
Bach also said that participants in the IOC meeting had agreed on the need to consider changes to world sport’s anti-doping system – saying the IOC would invite WADA to launch such a review in October, after the Games in Brazil.
Asked about the political tension in the host country, and whether suspended President Dilma Rousseff would be at the Games, Bach sought a diplomatic tone.
“This is a matter for the organizing committee,” he said. “The IOC has been working very well with the government of President Dilma Rousseff, and we are working with the same cooperation and respect with the government of [interim] President Temer. This shows that the Olympic Games in Brazil are beyond politics… So, therefore, I would be happy to see Mrs Rousseff at the Games.”
The final question faced by the IOC president concerned reports of him speaking with Russian President Vladimir Putin about the developments in recent days. Had he spoken to the Kremlin’s head honcho? “No. … This speculation is putting a smile on my face.”