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Calls for Russian ban at Rio Games spark tension ahead of doping report

Monday, 18 July 2016

Russian track and field athletes have been banned from international competition by athletics world governing body the IAAF after an earlier inquiry said there was "state-sponsored" doping
Russian track and field athletes have been banned from international competition by athletics world governing body the IAAF after an earlier inquiry said there was “state-sponsored” doping

World sport leaders were on edge Sunday awaiting a report on allegations of widespread state-sponsored doping in Russia that US and Canadian anti-doping officials say could warrant a full ban of Russia from the Rio Olympics.

Although Russia is already banned from international athletics because of a doping storm, European Olympic Committees (EOC) president Pat Hickey said he was “shocked” by a call for a blanket ban of Russia before the findings of Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren’s investigation are made public on Monday.

“My concern is that there seems to have been an attempt to agree an outcome before any evidence has been presented,” Hickey said on Saturday.

“Such interference and calls ahead of the McLaren Report publication are totally against internationally recognised fair legal process and may have completely undermined the integrity and therefore the credibility of this important report.”

Hickey said that Beckie Scott, the Canadian chairman of the WADA athletes commission and an International Olympic Committee member, had sent out an e-mail appeal to back a letter from the US and Canadian anti-doping agencies to IOC president Thomas Bach.

“This letter calls upon the IOC to instigate a wholesale ban of the Russian Olympic Committee team in Rio 2016.

“This unprecedented call for such a ban is based on what the US and Canadian national anti-doping agencies say are the findings of the independent McLaren Report.”

Hickey said the McLaren report was meant to remain confidential until its publication, but that the e-mail and letter showed that “both the independence and the confidentiality of the report have been compromised”.

Hickey’s concern was welcomed by Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko on Sunday — and echoed by other European sports leaders.

Mutko told TASS news agency that Hickey “is quite right when he says that the move by USADA puts in question the independence and the confidentiality of the investigation by the WADA commission”.

“Now it’s clear what will happen after the report by McLaren: a news conference and pressure on Russia.”

– Credible, verifiable –

McLaren was tasked with investigating charges made by former Moscow doping laboratory director Grigory Rodchenkov that even Russian secret services took part in an operation to manipulate Russian doping test samples at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

The Canadian investigator said in June that the early results of his work had found “credible and verifiable” evidence to back the allegations.

In a blog posted on the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport website, Paul Melia, president of the body that oversees anti-doping efforts in Canada, said the IOC “will have no choice” but to ban all Russian competitors from Rio if the McLaren report confirms Rodchenkov’s allegations.

According to Hickey, three European anti-doping agencies have been approached to sign the US-Canadian letter and that “only athletes and organisations known to support a ban of the Russian Olympic team have been contacted”.

Despite Hickey’s comments, some European countries are known to support a ban.

The New York Times reported Saturday that anti-doping officials from at least 10 nations and 20 athlete groups are ready to request that the entire Russian delegation be barred from Rio.

But Olympic chiefs from Croatia and Greece, and global swimming governing body FINA also said calls for a Russian ban were premature.

“It seems incredible that important members of the Olympic Movement are seeking to build a global coalition to get another National Olympic Committee banned even before the requisite evidence has been published,” Zlatko Matesa, EOC executive member and president of the Croatian Olympic Committee said.

His Greek counterpart, Spyros Capralos, said: “All of us want zero tolerance of doping and all forms of cheating in sport. However this must be conducted in an open and transparent way, not through building alliances of national prejudice based on supposition rather than evidence.”

FINA posted a statement on its website expressing concern “that there has been a drive behind the scenes, led by the WADA Athletes Commission Chair, to get a global coalition of support from selected organisations in the Olympic Movement to support the call for the total ban on Russia.

“Again, all of this is based on the findings of the McLaren Report which is meant to have been independent and confidential.

“Such breaches of confidentiality and the perception of a breach of independence of the report undermine its credibility,” FINA said.

US Anti-Doping Agency chief Travis Tygart could not immediately be reached by AFP.

Source by: AFP

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