The International Olympic Committee will decide later today whether to provisionally ban Russia from the Rio Olympics, which start on 5 August, after more evidence emerged of a systematic doping culture in the country.
The World Anti-Doping Agency has been joined by other anti-doping experts and athletes’ groups in calling for the country to be banned after the publication of Canadian law professor Richard McLaren’s explosive 103-page report.
It revealed the Russian Sports Ministry controlled a cynical scheme to make a mockery of international anti-doping rules and effectively sabotage fair competition at several major events, including London 2012 and the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
The Russian Olympic committee said earlier today that the allegations on doping among Russian competitors at Sochi required fuller investigation because they were so serious.
The committee added in a statement that it was ready to provide full assistance in such an investigation.
WADA’s executive committee has asked the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and International Paralympic Committee (IPC) “to consider, under their respective charters, to decline entries for Rio 2016 of all athletes” submitted by the Russian authorities.
WADA president Craig Reedie reacted to McLaren’s findings with horror, such is the scale of a doping conspiracy that helped Russian athletes from more than 30 sports dope with impunity for years.
“As the international agency responsible for leading the collaborative, global, clean sport movement, WADA is calling on the sports movement to impose the strongest possible measures to protect clean sport for Rio 2016 and beyond,” said Reedie, who is also an IOC vice-president.
Angry athletes added their voices to the calls to keep Rio Russia-free, with former Olympic cross-country skiing champion Beckie Scott, the chair of WADA’s athletes commission saying the report was “deeply shocking”.
“We fully support the recommendations put forward today by WADA and sincerely hope that technicalities are not used to circumvent these appropriate sanctions,” added Scott.
“We would like to highlight our belief that WADA must allow Professor McLaren and his team to continue their investigation, that Russia should be banned from the Rio Olympics, Paralympics, and other international events, and that international federations must enact sanctions so as to protect clean sport.”
Even before the report was published, several anti-doping agencies had lined up to demand that Russia be banned from Rio, pointing out that the IOC and IPC have the power to do so.
With the Russian Olympic Committee already appealing against an earlier decision by the International Association of Athletics Federations to uphold November’s ban on Russia’s track and field team, it is likely the IOC and IPC will wait until the Court of Arbitration for Sport has made its ruling later this week.
But any hopes the Russian authorities have of winning that appeal have surely disappeared in much the same way positive samples vanished at the anti-doping laboratories in Moscow and Sochi.
WADA’s executive committee made six other recommendations apart from the request to withdraw the invitations to compete in Rio.
They include banning Russian government officials from international sports events, maintaining the suspensions of the Moscow anti-doping laboratory and Russian anti-doping agency, and asking the international federations of the sports mentioned in McLaren’s report to consider following the IAAF lead by banning their Russian member associations.
It has also called on football’s governing body FIFA to investigate Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko’s involvement in the doping scam, as Mutko is also the president of the Russian FA, a member of FIFA’s council and the chairman of the organising committee for the 2018 World Cup.
His deputy Yuri Nagornykh, appointed by Russian president Vladimir Putin in 2010, is described by McLaren as the doping programme’s main decision-maker but the report also implicates Mutko’s closest advisor Natalia Zhelanova, saying it was “inconceivable” that Mutko was unaware of what was going on and even says he intervened to cover up a foreign footballer’s positive test.
WADA’s final recommendation outlines just how bad Russia’s cheating has been in that it calls for McLaren and his team of investigators to be given more time to complete their work: what he has found already is based on just 57 “intense” days.
McLaren, who also worked on last year’s WADA-funded commission that looked into doping in Russian athletics, was asked to build on that investigation after the New York Times printed an interview in May with the former director of the Moscow lab, Grigory Rodchenkov.
Now in hiding in the United States, Rodchenkov said Russia’s poor performance at the 2010 Winter Olympics and difficulties in circumventing improved anti-doping methods had effectively persuaded the Russian government to double down on what had already been widespread cheating.
Rodchenkov said, under direct control from the Russian Sports Ministry, he worked out a new cocktail of steroids to give athletes and established a system to cover up positive samples.
This operation, which McLaren refers to in his report as the “disappearing positive methodology”, worked in the build-up to London 2012, the World Athletics Championships in Moscow in 2013, World Swimming Championships in Kazan in 2015 and other major events.