The Time is NOW to Stand Up for Clean Sport

July 15, 2016

It sounds almost melodramatic to say it, but the integrity of international sport is at stake.

On Monday, respected Canadian arbitrator and law professor, Richard McLaren, will make public the findings of a major investigation into Russia’s anti-doping system. His probe follows a shocking World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) report earlier this year that exposed systemic cheating in Russian track and field.

If Mr. McLaren’s report corroborates the allegations stated by Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov in his NY Times interview on May 12, this will provide  irrefutable evidence that the Russian Government, through its Ministry of Sport, has been deliberately covering up positive doping samples at the Moscow laboratory since 2011, up to and including the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi. 

His report could paint an unprecedented picture of state-supported corruption and subversion of the anti-doping system. 

This is a defining moment in international sport.

If Monday’s report confirms the Rodchenkov allegations, then the International Olympic Committee (IOC) will have no choice but to ban all Russian athletes from this summer’s Olympic Summer Games in Rio. And it must be the same consequence for the Russian contingent at the Paralympics in September.

In an op-ed published July 10 in USA Today, IOC President Thomas Bach foreshadowed both the report’s conclusions and the severity of the IOC’s response: “Should the investigation prove the allegations true, it would represent a shocking new dimension in doping with an, until now, unprecedented level of criminality.”

Clearly, this is far more than an ethical issue. The Olympic Charter gives the IOC the authority to suspend any National Olympic Committee when there is evidence of systemic cheating. If the McLaren Report provides such evidence, and if the IOC hopes to restore public confidence in the Olympic values and recapture the trust of clean athletes, they must suspend the Russian Olympic Committee and ban them from taking a team to Rio.

The IOC’s handling of this case will determine the legacy of the Olympic Games. This will be the decision for which the IOC's current leadership is long remembered.

If there were ever a time to stand up for clean sport, it’s now.

As a strong and steadfast supporter of fair play and values-based sport, Canada’s voice must continue to be heard. The Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport (CCES) is working closely with other leading anti-doping agencies and clean athletes around the world to ensure the message to the IOC and IPC is loud and clear: if there is clear and compelling evidence of deliberate and deceitful practices by the Russian sport system, then they must be sanctioned according to the World Anti-Doping Code and the Olympic Charter.

Clean athletes the world over have had their confidence shaken. But decisive and rule-based action by the IOC based on the findings tabled Monday in the McLaren report can go a long way to restoring the confidence of clean athletes. Under such intense scrutiny, will the IOC do the right thing?