LAUSANNE, Switzerland, July 20 – The International Olympic Committee barred Russia’s Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko from the Rio Games and withdrew backing for international events in Russia over a state-run doping programme, but delayed ruling on a complete ban on the country until after a key court case on Thursday.
With the Rio Games due to start on August 5, the IOC executive committee held emergency talks Tuesday on what Olympic president Thomas Bach called a “shocking and unprecedented attack on the integrity of sport and on the Olympic Games” by the Russian government.
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), which commissioned an independent inquiry into Russian doping, has led international calls for Russia to be banned from Rio over revelations of widespread state-run doping at the Sochi Winter Olympics and other major events in Russia.
But the IOC said after the talks it will first “explore the legal options with regard to a collective ban of all Russian athletes for the Olympic Games 2016 versus the right to individual justice.”
It is also waiting on a Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ruling on Thursday on an appeal by 68 Russian athletes against an IAAF ban from the Rio competition.
– Mutko barred –
The controversial Mutko, a long-time ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was the highest-profile casualty of the first sanctions as the IOC grapples with the biggest doping scandal in Olympic history.
He has denied any wrongdoing and said he expects his deputy to be cleared as well.
But the IOC ordered a disciplinary commission to look into his ministry’s role in what Monday’s report called a “state-dictated failsafe system” of drug cheating that included Russia’s secret service swapping dirty urine samples for clean ones through a hole in a wall in Sochi.
Lead investigator Richard McLaren says he has conclusive evidence that the four-year doping scheme was directed by the sports ministry with the FSB intelligence agency.
As a consequence, the IOC said it will not grant any Rio accreditation “to any official of the Russian Ministry of Sport or any person implicated in the (McLaren) report.”
That includes Mutko, who has denied that the government directed the doping programme. He told the Interfax news agency he was hoping for a “reasonable” decision from the IOC on Russia’s participation in Rio.
Mutko said he has suspended five top deputies, including his number two Yury Nagornykh, described as the point man for running the cheating scheme.
– Key ruling due –
WADA, the German Olympic committee and anti-doping bodies have backed calls for Russia’s outright ban from Rio — that would be the first time a country has been banned from an Olympic Games over doping.
But the Association of Summer Olympic Federations and other groups have urged caution, pointing to the ethical issues of punishing athletes who have never failed drug tests.
The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) has already barred Russian track and field contenders from Rio after an inquiry into widespread state-sponsored doping in the sport.
The CAS will rule on whether the IAAF had grounds to impose a blanket ban on a national federation, since such a suspension inevitably punished athletes with no positive drug test on their record.
IAAF president Sebastian Coe attended a CAS hearing in Geneva on Tuesday ahead of the ruling.
IOC executives also ordered a reanalysis of all samples by Russian athletes taken at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, vowing punishment against anyone who helped competitors cheat.
Because the Sochi Games are so tainted, the IOC said it would not give backing to any international sports events in Russia.
It called on “all International Olympic Winter Sports Federations to freeze their preparations for major events in Russia.”
This includes world championships and World Cups, the IOC said, calling for winter federations “to actively look for alternative organisers.”
– In hiding –
The Russian Olympic Committee has acknowledged doping problems but insists that collective punishment against possibly clean athletes would leave “the integrity of the Olympic Movement… endangered.”
Senior sports and political leaders in Moscow have also questioned the credibility of McLaren’s key witness, the former boss of the Moscow anti-doping laboratory Grigory Rodchenkov, who admits he was central to the cheating scheme.
Rodchenkov is in hiding in the United States and is wanted by Russia.
McLaren said his team uncovered forensic evidence that proved Rodchenkov’s claims that Moscow set up a cheating system following the country’s poor performance at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games.