'Our athletes deserve better': Sport Ireland calling for complete ban on Russia

Sport Ireland has called for a complete ban on any Russian involvement in international sporting competition following further revelations about the state’s doping offences.

'Our athletes deserve better': Sport Ireland calling for complete ban on Russia

Sport Ireland has called for a complete ban on any Russian involvement in international sporting competition following further revelations about the state’s doping offences.

On Monday, Russia was handed a four-year ban from international sporting competition by the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) for a doping cover-up which will mean no athletes will compete under the Russian flag at the 2020 Olympics or 2022 World Cup. Wada’s executive committee imposed the ban after finding Russia tampered with laboratory data handed to Wada as a condition for ending a previous three-year ban.

However several Russians are still expected to compete at the Olympics and other major events under a neutral flag, a system which those at Sport Ireland believe is unfair to their international rivals.

“The sanctions endorsed by the executive committee of Wada, while strong in some areas, do not go far enough to address the sheer scale of the systematic corruption encountered in Russia,” said John Treacy, CEO of Sport Ireland.

“It is entirely disappointing that Wada did not implement a full and immediate ban of all Russian athletes from international competition, including, as a minimum, the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, until such time as the confidence in the Russian anti-doping system is fully restored.

“While Wada has outlined a mechanism whereby Russian athletes can compete under a neutral flag, this system does not appear to be without flaw. Russian athletes will still be able to compete under the same coaches and support personnel that were a key part of one the most shocking scandals in the history of international sport. Our athletes deserve better.”

The Russian soccer team will also compete at the 2020 European Championships, for which it is one of the host venues, as the ban only applies to global competition.

“That a country found to have operated a systematic doping regime can still play host to one of the world’s biggest sporting events is troubling,” said Una May, Sport Ireland’s director of participation and ethics.

“Clarity is needed around the role Russia can play with regard to the hosting of future international events, particularly around their status when it comes to making bids for competitions during the period of exclusion.

“It is important that this is not allowed to happen and that all sanctions are enforced in the strictest terms.”

Irish 1500m athlete Ciara Mageean welcomed the four-year ban, telling BBC that she was “glad to see harsh punishments laid down for such acts as strategic doping set-ups”.

The 27-year-old said she had sympathy for Russian athletes who were competing clean and called for further investigations into doping elsewhere.

“Our sport needs to be clean. It gives us all a fair playing field,” she said. “It’s not only our performances that are affected, it’s our ability to earn a living from the sport and our own happiness and our satisfaction. I want to see more sustained investigations into other countries and other athletes and coaches that there is suspicion around because, ultimately, testing only catches the few.”

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