World Anti-Doping Agency recommends banning Russian athletes from the Rio Olympics
RIO DE JANEIRO — The International Olympic Committee should consider banning Russian athletes from the Rio 2016 Games, according to the World Anti-Doping Agency.
Russia stands accused of “a shocking and unprecedented attack on the integrity of sport and on the Olympic Games” after an independent WADA-commissioned report said it operated a state-sponsored doping program during the 2014 Sochi Winter Games.
The report by Canadian law professor Richard McLaren concluded Russia’s “Ministry of Sport directed, controlled and oversaw the manipulation of athlete’s analytical results or sample swapping, with the active participation and assistance of the FSB, CSP, and both Moscow and Sochi Laboratories.”
The FSB is Russia’s federal security service while the CSP is involved in the training of Russian athletes.
In a statement, WADA called on “the IOC and the International Paralympic Committee to consider, under their respective charters, to decline entries, for Rio 2016, of all athletes submitted by the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) and the Russian Paralympic Committee.”
It also recommended Russian officials be denied access to international competitions, including Rio 2016.
IOC president Thomas Bach said in a statement it “will not hesitate to take the toughest sanctions available against any individual or organization implicated,” with the governing body’s executives set to decide Tuesday what further sanctions Russia will face.
“The investigation has established the findings set out in the report beyond a reasonable doubt,” McLaren told a press conference in Toronto, Canada Monday.
“The evidence we have uncovered is all verifiable and can be cross-corroborated by multiple sources. I am unwaveringly confident in our report,” he added.
The Kremlin and Russian Sports Ministry are yet to respond to CNN’s request for comment.
The investigation came off the back of claims made by former Russian anti-doping laboratory director Grigory Rodchenkov last year to the New York Times that he was ordered to cover up the drug use of at least 15 Sochi 2014 medal winners.
The Russian track and field team has already been barred by from competing in the 2016 Games by the IAAF, although more than 80 athletes have filed petitions to participate under the Olympic flag.
Will Russia be banned from Rio?
Reaction to the McLaren report from the international community has been swift, with U.S. Anti-Doping Agency chief Travis Tygart saying the study “has concluded, beyond a reasonable doubt, a mind-blowing level of corruption within both Russian sport and government that goes right to the field of play.”
Tygart, who was instrumental in exposing Lance Armstrong as a drug cheat, called on the international community to rally together “to ensure this unprecedented level of criminality never again threatens the sports we cherish.”
Anti-doping authorities from more than 10 countries — including the U.S., Canada, Germany, Spain, Japan and Switzerland — are also expected to file a request to have the entire Russian Olympic team banned from Rio, according to the New York Times, which says it has received emails confirming the matter.
“The fact that the commission didn’t give any recommendations to ban Russian team from the Olympics in Rio is a positive fact,” the head of the Russian Olympic committee Alexander Zhukov told the state run news organization TASS, adding that the report needed to be studied in greater detail before he could comment further.
Meanwhile, Russian MP Irina Rodnina — a three-time Olympic gold medalist in figure skating — accused the report of a broader plan to deface Russia ahead of the Games.
“It’s a general tendency, the McLaren report is similar with other restrictions against Russia, in trade, policy and against certain individuals. There’s a powerful external pressure on Russia,” she told TASS. “The McLaren report has been presented just few days ahead of the Rio Olympics, and it’s been done this way deliberately. Now it all depends on the IOC decision.”
“Culture change” necessary
Shortly after the McLaren’s comments, WADA chief spokesman Ben Nichols tweeted that his organization would recommend that Russians be banned from all international competition, including Rio, until “culture change” is achieved.
In a series of tweets, Nichols condemned what he called the “most deliberate and disturbing abuse of power ever seen in sport” while saying that the scale of the accusations across 30 sports means “there can no longer be a presumption of innocence” where Russian athletes are concerned.
“This is extraordinary, we have never ever heard of anything this bad,” said CNN sports analyst Christine Brennan. “This goes into the heart of, ‘Can you believe that any Russian athlete is clean going into Rio?'”
In his statement, whistle-blower Rodchenkov alleged that he assisted in doctoring urine samples provided by Russian athletes during overnight shifts at the Sochi Games. He also accused the Russian secret service of providing active assistance with the cover-up, which he says took place before, during and after the Sochi Olympics.
Rodchenkov’s statement followed allegations from another former employee of the Russia Anti-Doping agency, Vitaliy Stepanov, who claimed in a 2014 German documentary that the Russian Olympic federation supplied banned substances to athletes in exchange for 5% of their earnings. Stepanov is married to former Russian middle-distance runner Yuliya Stepanova, who backed up the claims.
“In a training camp in Portugal, our athletes simply lived under false names,” said Stepanova, who relocated to Canada and has successfully appealed to run under the Olympic flag in Rio. “They have taken banned substances, they undertook a course of doping, and to ensure that foreign control officers did not come and test them, they provided false names.”
Doping allegations have repeatedly been discredited by Russian authorities, including a spokesman for President Vladimir Putin who referred to Stepanova as “Judas,” according to an IAAF report.
A documentary alleging that Russia has fallen victim to an international smear campaign is scheduled to air Monday on Russian television.
The 25-minute film titled “The Doping Trap” was distributed to journalists in advance of its premier on the state-owned sport channel Match TV. It profiles four Russian athletes along with drug testing supervisors who counter the claims of Stepanova and Rodchenkov, while alleging they have been victims of an elaborate set-up.