Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Aug 2 – Olympics chief Thomas Bach called for a complete overhaul of the global anti-doping system on Tuesday after revelations of state-backed cheating by Russia rocked preparations for the Rio Games.
Bach said the uncovering of Russia’s widespread doping had shown up deficiencies in the system run by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).
“Recent developments have shown that we need a full review of the WADA anti-doping system,” Bach told an International Olympic Committee (IOC) session, three days before the Rio Games open on Friday.
“The IOC is calling for a more robust and efficient anti-doping system,” he added. “This requires clear responsibilities, more transparency, more independence and better worldwide harmonisation.”
Bach’s condemnation of WADA escalates a feud between the Olympics and anti-doping bodies which has broken out in the final days before the Rio Games.
It follows last month’s report by Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren for WADA, which said Russia’s sports ministry and secret services evaded drug testers by switching samples at Russian laboratories.
The IOC then came under fire after it stopped short of banning Russia completely from Rio. It delegated individual sports to take action against athletes from the country.
– ‘Nuclear option’ –
Bach blasted an outright ban on Russia. “Let us just for a moment consider the consequences of a ‘nuclear option’.
“The result is death and devastation. This is not what the Olympic movement stands for.”
He added: “We want to keep the cheaters away from the Olympic Games. There is no place to hide for cheats and dopers can never feel safe anywhere.”
WADA president Craig Reedie, who as an IOC vice-president sat close to Bach during his address, chose not to give an immediate response.
Several IOC members criticised WADA during Tuesday’s talks, before the body voted 84 to one to implement last month’s executive board decision not to exclude Russia.
But former WADA chief Dick Pound said the IOC was “trying to deflect attention away from the reality” of the troublesome Russian situation.
“All told it was pretty predictable,” said the Canadian. “If you go through the list of speakers, you would not be surprised at what anybody said.”
Reedie’s WADA had led calls for Russia to be expelled from Rio, a stance that was backed by several national anti-doping agencies.
Russia’s athletics team has already been barred in a separate doping scandal, and at least 117 of Russia’s original Olympic contingent of 387 have also been excluded over drugs concerns.
Many have taken their cases to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, including 17 rowers and the Russian weightlifting federation, with the country’s eventual contingent still unclear.
Russian Olympic Committee president Alexander Zhukov blasted “discrimination” against athletes who have been banned as a result of the McLaren report, despite not failing drugs tests.
“To those who crave collective disqualification for Russia, taking into account ruined fates and broke lives of innocent athletes, I fully agree with the position of president Bach that each individual must have at least the opportunity to prove their innocence,” he said.
Argentina’s Gerardo Werthein also hit out at WADA’s “failure to investigate serious and credible allegations more swiftly” as IOC members rounded on the anti-doping body.
“It saddens me to say this, but at times WADA has seemed to be more interested in publicity and self-promotion rather than doing its job as a regulator,” Werthein said.