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Campaign to force Russia out of Rio divides sport leaders

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Russia is already banned from international athletics because of a doping storm.

Russia is already banned from international athletics because of a doping storm.

LOS ANGELES, United States, July 17- A North American-led campaign to ban Russia from the Rio de Janeiro Olympics has opened up an international divide on how to deal with the doping scandal engulfing Russia.

European Olympic Committees (EOC) president Pat Hickey said he was “shocked” by a move led by the United States and Canada to have Russia completely banned from the Summer Games, which start in Rio on August 5.

Hickey said he was alerted to the move when the head of the World Anti-Doping Agency’s athletes commission sent out an appeal for backing for the campaign.

Russia is already banned from international athletics because of a doping storm.

And on Monday Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren’s report is due on his investigation of allegations that the Russian government manipulated doping samples taken at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics to protect Russian competitors.

But Hickey said a US-Canadian attempt to get a blanket ban before the report has been released “has shocked and concerned me on a number of levels”.

“My concern is that there seems to have been an attempt to agree an outcome before any evidence has been presented,” Hickey said.

“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.”

Hickey said that Beckie Scott, the Canadian chairman of the WADA athletes commission and an IOC member, had sent out an email appeal to back a letter from the US and Canadian anti-doping agencies 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.

“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.”

Hickey said the McLaren report is meant to remain confidential until its publication on Monday.

“It is clear from the e-mail and letter that both the independence and the confidentiality of the report have been compromised,” he said.

Hickey’s disquiet was echoed by Olympic chiefs from Croatia and Greece.

“It seems incredible that important members of the Olympic Movement are seeking to build a global coalition to get another National Olympic Committee banned even before the requisite evidence has been published,” Zlatko Matesa, EOC executive member and president of the Croatian Olympic Committee said.

He added: “This is not in the Olympic spirit and casts a shadow over the integrity of the McLaren report.”

His Greek counterpart, Spyros Capralos, said: “All of us want zero tolerance of doping and all forms of cheating in sport. However this must be conducted in an open and transparent way, not through building alliances of national prejudice based on supposition rather than evidence.”

According to Hickey, three European anti-doping agencies have been approached to sign the US-Canadian letter.

– Fair and due process –

“It is clear that only athletes and organisations known to support a ban of the Russian Olympic team have been contacted,” he said.

“I have to question on what authority the USA and Canadian anti-doping agencies prepared their letter and what mandate they have to lead an international call for a ban of another nation in the Olympic family.

“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.”

US Anti-Doping Agency chief Travis Tygart could not immediately be reached by AFP.

In a blog posted on the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport website, Paul Melia, president of the body that oversees anti-doping efforts in Canada, said Olympic officials must be prepared to issue a blanket ban of Russia if the McLaren report confirms allegations that the country’s government covered up doping failures.

He anticipated that the report “could paint an unprecedented picture of state-supported corruption and subversion of the anti-doping system”, along the lines alleged by Russian laboratory director Grigory Rodchenkov in The New York Times.

“If Monday’s report confirms the Rodchenkov allegations, then the International Olympic Committee (IOC) will have no choice but to ban all Russian athletes from this summer’s Olympic Summer Games in Rio,” Melia wrote. “And it must be the same consequence for the Russian contingent at the Paralympics in September.”

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