Russia could be banned from the Rio Olympics entirely as doping allegations against the country from the Sochi 2014 games may lead to an unprecedented nationwide ban from competing in the summer games.
The World Anti-Doping Agency is currently investigating allegations that Russia conducted state-sponsored doping of its Winter Olympic athletes. Russia’s entire track and field team has already been banned from competing in Rio by the sport’s governing body, the IAAF, after a concentrated doping effort was uncovered. The Guardian reported that other sports could face similar bans.
Sir Craig Reedie, the president of the World Anti-Doping Agency, said that if a report being compiled by law professor Richard McClaren shows that Russia’s government was also conducting doping to give athletes and advantage, there could be a chance for a “precedent-setting” ban against all of Russia from competing in the Rio Olympics. The report is expected back by the middle of July, just weeks before the games in Rio are set to open.
“We are encouraged that the IAAF recognizes their responsibilities,” Reedie said. “They suspended the national federation in Russia because of code breaches. If there is clear evidence of other sports being involved, then clearly you would hope that other international federations might take the same view.”
The World Anti-Doping Agency doesn’t actually have the power to ban countries from competing in the Olympics, but could pass on a recommendation to the International Olympic Committee. The new director of WADA, Olivier Niggli, predicted that there could be a total ban from Russia in the Rio Olympics.
“It’s not impossible for other Russian sports to miss the Olympics,” he said via the Guardian). “The IAAF has set some interesting precedent. There are going to be some timing issues — we are very close to Rio. I think there might be different actions based on the timing of all of this.”
There is still a chance that some Russian track and field athletes could compete at the Rio Olympics, the IOC said. Athletes who pass extra drug testing will be allowed to compete, but it’s not yet been determined if they would represent Russia or would simply be competing as what IOC President Thomas Bach called “neutral athletes.”
“If there are athletes qualified, then they will compete as members of the team of the Russian Olympic Committee,” Bach said.
There is also quite a bit of drama surrounding whistleblower Yulia Stepanova, the 800-meter runner who came forward to reveal details of the widespread doping scandal. He later went into hiding, and there was some talk that the IAAF could let him compete.
Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said it would be unfair if Stepanova was allowed to compete while clean Russian athletes were barred.
As the Guardian noted, it appeared that the IAAF had already authorized Stepanova to compete.
Amid the rumors that Russia could be banned from the Olympics, the Russian Ministry for Sport called out the IAAF for doing “everything to destroy” athletics in their country. The ministry also released a statement saying that all of its athletes were willing to “go over and above all the normal anti-doping tests to show their commitment to clean and fair sport.”
[Photo by Nikolai Alexandrov/Getty Images]