To ban or not to ban? IOC to decide on Russia’s participation at 2016 Rio Games
The IOC summit is taking place in Lausanne, Switzerland, on Tuesday. The agenda includes discussion on whether the entire Russian team should be barred from the 2016 Rio summer games. Another option includes whether to allow “clean” Russian athletes not guilty of doping to compete in Rio. This would mete out individual justice to every Olympic team member.
It is the first time that Russia, which has always been one of the top world sporting powers, could be absent from the games through a ban. In 1984, the Soviet Union boycotted the Los Angeles Olympics along with several other Warsaw Treaty countries.
"We will have some interesting debate," IOC President Thomas Bach said at the opening of the meeting of 20 sports delegates at a Lausanne hotel.
"We want to coordinate our efforts to protect the clean athletes and strengthen the fight against doping, particularly in light of the upcoming Rio Games," he added.
Russian track and field stars were banned from competing in the 2016 Rio games by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) on Saturday. The IOC has already expressed support for the IAAF ruling, saying it welcomes the "strong stance against doping."
"This is in line with the IOC’s long-held zero-tolerance policy," the IOC said in its statement published on Saturday.
IAAF President Sebastian Coe is among participants at the Lausanne meeting, as is Russia's Olympic committee head Alexander Zhukov.
On Tuesday, the president of the Russian Olympic Committee, Alexander Zhukov, called on IOC President Thomas Bach to make a fair decision towards Russian athletes.
“We are extremely saddened by the IAAF decision to suspend Russian athletes from international competitions, including the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro,” Zhukov wrote in a letter to Bach.
“We believe this decision has been unfair, and it violates the rights of the overwhelming majority of Russian athletes who never resorted to doping and broke no rules. Moreover, [the athletes] were many times tested by independent foreign anti-doping bodies, honestly competing for participation in [the 2016 Rio] Olympics.”
The ROC has at all times been committed to a “zero-tolerance policy” on the use of doping, Zhukov stressed, adding that the suspension of “clean” athletes “contradicts the foundations of the Olympic Charter, has no legal grounds and devalues the success of their opponents.”
The “clean” athletes as well as the Russian Athletics Federation (RUSAF) would appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, headquartered in Switzerland, in order to ensure legal protection against any discrimination of their rights and interests, he added.
Is this only about sport?
Russia is also the first country in the history of the Olympic Games to have an entire track and field team banned from participating because of doping allegations. The IAAF decision has been met with stark criticism from Russian sports stars, who said that suspending athletes en masse was completely wrong.
Aleksandr Zhulin, two-time Olympic champion and now figure skating coach, recalled that when Jamaica was involved in a doping scandal, no one thought of disqualifying the whole team and it is not clear why Russia faced such a harsh decision.
“This is not only about sport. It all started long ago from the sanctions and Crimea. These are links of one chain,” Zhulin told RT.
On Tuesday, RT released a video in support of athletes not implicated in the doping scandal. The one-minute footage shows Russian champions in the hammer throw, high jump, water polo, archery, taekwondo and other Olympic sports holding placards, reading: “Why am I to blame?”
Others argue that “clean athletes” uninvolved in the doping scandal should not be banned.
“The athletes with clean records who have never used banned drugs will be making their own decisions now,” Russian Athletics Federation’s president, Dmitry Shlyakhtin, told RT. “Clean athletes still have a chance to go [to the Olympics] if they take their cases to court.”