Russia has vowed its Rio 2016 hopefuls would “go over and above” demands to prove they are clean of drugs after the bar was raised by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
The Russian Ministry of Sport gave a diplomatic response to the IOC’s announcement yesterday that prospective Olympians from the country, in all sports, would have to pass individual anti-doping assessments before being declared eligible.
Kenya’s Olympians will be subject to the same criteria, the IOC said. The unprecedented measure affecting both countries was unanimously agreed at an emergency summit convened by the IOC in Lausanne.
With the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) declaring both Kenya and Russia “non-compliant”, IOC president Thomas Bach said athletes from those countries could no longer be “presumed innocent”.
“We respect the statement made by the International Olympic Committee and fully support its zero tolerance approach to doping,” read a statement from the Russian Ministry of Sport.
“Our Olympians are ready to go over and above all the normal anti-doping tests to show their commitment to clean and fair sport.”
The conciliatory nature of the statement, particularly when compared to earlier messages of defiance, suggests Russia realises the IOC could have been much tougher on them given the mounting evidence of state-sponsored cheating in recent years.
It is also telling that the Russian media has focused on Bach’s comments that any Russian track and field athlete in Rio will be able to compete in Russian colours and under a Russian flag.
That is contrary to what the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) decided on Friday, when it voted to maintain the ban on Russia’s athletics federation that has been in place since a WADA investigation uncovered systemic doping in November.
The IAAF left “a crack in the door” for what will probably be a very small number of Russian athletes who can demonstrate a clean record from credible testing agencies. But it was clear that those athletes should be in neutral colours, under an IOC flag.
The IAAF reacted to the IOC announcement by saying it would now “work with the IOC to ensure (Friday’s) decision is respected and implemented in full”, which suggests an argument is brewing over kit and flags.
Speaking after the summit, Bach said representatives from across the Olympic movement had unanimously backed the IAAF decision, only to then say Russian athletes could wear Russian colours as they were representing the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC), not the Russian athletics federation, and the ROC was not banned.
On the subject of the “individual assessments” for would-be Olympians from Kenya and Russia, Bach said: “The conclusion of the summit was that this non-compliance declaration, and the substantial allegations related to it, put very serious doubts on the presumption of innocence for athletes coming from these two countries.
“Therefore, each athlete coming from these two countries will have to be declared eligible by their respective international federation following an individual procedure and evaluation of the situation.”
There are actually four countries currently non-compliant but the problems of Mexico and Spain are more administrative and legal than fundamental issues with their testing regimes.
The situation in Kenya and Russia, however, is very different, as Bach pointed out, saying Kenya had administrative and financial problems that meant there was an “absence of national testing”.
“And in Russia, you have serious allegations about the manipulation of the anti-doping system,” he said.
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