Clean athletes cheated before Games even begin

July 25, 2016

Sadly, I was wrong.

I had naively hoped the International Olympic Committee (IOC) would recognize all the unmistakable signs and heed the deafening global call for a ban on Russian athletes competing in Rio.

Clean athletes—and those of us who believe in, and are committed to clean sport—were hoping that the IOC would sanction the Russian sport system for what Canadian law professor, Richard McLaren, exposed as the deliberate subversion of the World Anti-Doping Code.

At the same time, we advocated on behalf of clean Russian athletes to be given the opportunity to compete in Rio by demonstrating that they had been subject to effective anti-doping programs outside of Russia.

But the IOC dropped the baton. Instead of bringing clarity and leadership to what is arguably the biggest doping scandal in the history of sport, the IOC has created confusion, controversy and further tarnished the Olympic values and the very integrity of sport.

And let’s be clear. There was another option – a much better option.

A coalition of the world’s leading National Anti-Doping Organizations, the CCES included, proposed a set of criteria, derived from the World Anti-Doping Code, to assess Russian athletes from all sports. We further proposed a small, expert-based committee to carry out the streamlined review.

This would have been fair to clean Russian athletes, fair to all other clean athletes going to Rio, and the process would be efficiently and equitably carried out in the short time available between now and the Rio Games.

Instead, in a baffling decision, the IOC chose not to sanction Russia by prohibiting the Russian Olympic Committee from bringing a team to Brazil. And rather than establish one set of Code-compliant criteria to assess the eligibility of clean Russian athletes, IOC President Thomas Bach, and his Executive Committee chose to saddle the International Sport Federations (IFs) with this burdensome responsibility.

The reality is that the IFs may not have the technical capabilities, the capacity, nor the time to do a massive volume of painstaking work just days out from Rio’s Opening Ceremony.

In stark contrast, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) did exercise the clear and decisive leadership the world was looking for. Last Friday, they moved to suspend the Russian Paralympic Committee and ban them from participating in Rio. This was the right decision in the face of overwhelming evidence.

The IOC’s reluctance to take bold and decisive action against a corrupt sport system is discouraging and disheartening.

It leaves me wondering why the world’s Olympic leaders found it so difficult to simply do the right thing.

Ultimately, the biggest loser in all of this is the integrity of sport.