Russia Avoids Blanket Ban From Rio Olympics, IOC Decision Invites Criticism

Russia avoided a blanket ban from the 2016 Rio Olympics. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has instead advised individual sports federations to take a call on whether the Russian teams of each individual sports category get to participate in the respective division.

While Russian officials — who will not be accredited for the Rio Olympics — are naturally delighted with the fact that Russia has avoided a blanket ban. The Olympic Committee’s decision has met with widespread criticism from anti-doping crusaders.

Led by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), more than ten anti-doping organisations across the world, including the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), had campaigned for Russia to face a full ban in the Rio games. The news that Russia avoids blanket ban arrived after a three-hour long teleconference meeting of IOC officials.

Russia avoids blanket ban The Olympics rings are seen on a fence in front of the Russian Olympic Committee building in Moscow on July 24, 2016 [Photo by Pavel Golovkin/AP Images]ESPN quoted USADA CEO Travis Tygart, who was clear in his disappointment over Russia avoiding the blanket ban. Last Monday, Tygart had led a group of anti-doping officials in a call for the entire Russian contingent to be banned from the Rio Olympics.

“Many, including clean athletes and whistle blowers, have demonstrated courage and strength in confronting a culture of state-supported doping and corruption within Russia. Disappointingly, however, in response to the most important moment for clean athletes and the integrity of the Olympic Games, the IOC has refused to take decisive leadership. The decision regarding the Russians participating and the confusing mess left in its wake is a significant blow to the rights of clean athletes.”

Russia avoids blanket ban Yulia Stepanova [Photo by Aleksandr Chernykh/AP Images]Tygart’s comment sheds light to the fact that the decision to spare Russia the blanket ban also comes with the revelation that Yulia Stepanova, the Russian runner who blew the whistle on Russia’s state sponsored doping campaign before fleeing the country last year, will not be allowed to compete in the Olympics as a neutral athlete.

As reported by the Telegraph, the 800-meter runner, who has served a two-year ban from 2011 to 2013 for taking performance enhancing drugs, was given clearance by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) to compete as a ‘neutral’ athlete in recognition of her role in exposing the Russian doping scenario.

However, the IAAF’s ruling has now been overturned by the IOC, which is not going to allow any athlete who has already served a doping ban to compete in the Olympics. In an amusing turn of events, Stepanova and her husband were invited to watch the games.

Russia avoids blanket ban Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko speaks to the media in Moscow after it emerged that Russia would not be banned completely from Rio. [Photo by Pavel Golovkin/AP Images]With its track and fields team banned from the Rio Olympics — Russia lost the appeal to overturn the ban on Thursday — teams which could possibly make it through to the competition which starts in 12 days have nothing short of a very steep climb ahead of them, in which they not only need to prove their integrity but also need to overturn the tarnished image of competitive sports in Russia.

The New York Times quoted the section of the IOC’s statement, which proclaimed that no single Russian athlete was going into the Rio games “untainted.”

“All Russian athletes seeking entry to the Olympic Games Rio 2016 are considered to be affected by a system subverting and manipulating the anti-doping system.”

In the statement, from which the NYT quoted, the IOC also made it clear that in spite of the fact that Russia avoids blanket ban, its athletes will be subjected to a rigorous testing ritual administered by individual sporting federations.

Russia avoids blanket ban Russia’s Maria Kuchina [left] and Natalya Aksenova prepare to compete in the Russian Athletics Cup, at Zhukovsky, outside Moscow. [Photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP Images]Russia Today, however, reported on the inconsistency in the IOC ruling, when it was pointed out by another athlete that the U.S.A. is allowed to send athletes who have been previously banned into the Olympics.

However, as the report reasons, such extreme measures are “required” for Russia because as opposed to other countries, its doping is supported, engendered, and sponsored by the government.

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Russia avoided the blanket ban from the Rio Olympics, but the shadow of scrutiny has been cast on the Russian contingent and it is up to the 28 individual federations to make the decisions now.

[Photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko Jr./AP Images]