All Signs Point to a Complete Russian Ban at Rio 2016

July 22, 2016

The writing is on the wall. All that remains now is for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) to do the right thing – the right thing for the integrity of sport, for clean athletes and for everyone else around the world who subscribes to the values of the Olympic Movement.

A Swiss court has dismissed an appeal by 67 Russian track and field athletes which effectively paves the way for a complete ban of all Russian athletes from this summer’s Olympic and Paralympic Games in Brazil.

With the ruling this week by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), the last potential hurdle has been removed and the IOC now faces a much more straightforward decision when its Executive Committee meets this Sunday.

And I fully expect the IPC to follow suit and ban the Russian Team from the Rio Paralympics when that event gets underway in September.

All of this falls out of two recent investigations by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). The first, last fall, found compelling evidence of widespread, state-sanctioned doping within Russian track and field.

A follow-up probe by renowned Canadian lawyer, Richard McLaren, took a more comprehensive look at the Russian anti-doping system and his findings are shocking, to say the least.

His report lays out a narrative befitting a Hollywood thriller, implicating the highest levels of government, the secret Russian police and virtually every sport on the Olympic roster.

Professor McLaren has found, beyond any reasonable doubt, that the Russian system is corrupt from top to bottom. Detailed, failsafe measures were put in place to swap dirty samples with clean ones to protect Russian athletes from detection. All of this to ensure that Russia’s medal count on home soil in 2014 would far surpass what government officials saw as a dismal showing at the Vancouver Olympic Winter Games four years earlier.

These latest revelations have pushed the intensity of the international outcry by at least a couple of decibels. Anyone who believes in the integrity of sport and who values what the Olympic Movement stands for is calling for the most severe sanctions available against these unprecedented violations of the World Anti-Doping Code.

And the CAS ruling is the final piece of the puzzle for the IOC. Combined with the startling evidence gathered by two WADA investigations, it leads to only one plausible and appropriate conclusion: that Russian athletes must be banned from all international competitions—including Rio 2016—until it can be proven that their anti-doping system meets the same stringent standards as every other country.

While this would seem to be a “no-brainer,” there remains the unnerving possibility that the IOC may be considering other options that would see Russian athletes who’ve been part of their government’s doping program given a loophole to compete in Rio (not to be confused with the “mouse hole” described in Mr. McLaren’s report).

This is a defining moment in international sport. The world is watching, and the IOC and IPC response to this crisis will have long-lasting effects on the integrity of sport around the world. It will also define the legacy of the current IOC and IPC Executive Committee members.

Richard McLaren’s report is the strongest call to action yet for a thorough clean-up of international sport. I can only hope that the IOC and IPC will heed the call.