POSTED: May 17th 2016

NEIL WILSON: The day the IOC cleaned up its act

THE NEIL WILSON COLUMN / An exclusive, authoritative series from Sports Features Communications

(SFC) May 17, 2016. Eighty days until the Rio Olympics. Not normally a milestone on the road to a Games but this time it may turn out to be Games-changing.

This was the day when the International Olympic Committee finally admitted that a "powerful strike" is necessary to ensure that the cheats in sport do not succeed.

That strike was the re-testing of 454 doping samples from the 2008 Games in Beijing taken from athletes still competing and potentially in Rio. New scientific analysis methods revealed that 31 - around seven per cent - from six sports and 12 nations were positive.

Another 250 samples taken in London in 2012 are also being re-tested and those results will determine whether many others will be allowed to take part in Rio.

Perhaps more significant is the statement's confirmation by its very release that the IOC is at last getting the message. It seems it is prepared  now to recognize that the Olympics has a perception problem, the growing perception that the five rings may no longer be a symbol of good clean sport but something murkier.

Only that morning, before the IOC release shook the sports world, came the revelations that four more Russians, including world champion Alexey Lovchev, were among 24 athletes to fail doping tests at last year's world championships.  Russia will lose two Rio quota places because of it.

Hours later came news from Morocco that the authorities there have broken a doping ring involving six elite athletes. All this in the month when we discovered that, according to the former head of Russia's doping laboratory, there was officially sanctioned manipulation of doping samples taken at the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014.

The perception is not helped by president Thomas Bach cosying up to Russia's president Vladimir Putin, their phone calls and shared photo ops giving the world the impression that the IOC and Russia are bosom pals and that nothing Russia does will dissuade the IOC from the notion that it can do no wrong.

The IOC's latest statement is the first sign that it is waking to its mistake.  "Swift and decisive" action will follow the revelations about the subversion of the Sochi Laboratory if investigation confirm them. "Based on the result of this investigation the IOC will take swift action, " it stated.

If Russia has been deliberately seeking to subvert the doping rules, that swift action can mean only one thing.  Russia itself and not just those of its athletes caught by the tests would have to be removed from the Games in Rio.

That seems likely already for its track and field athletes. The IAAF will take a decision next month but amid the welter of shocking revelations its council seems certain now to stand firm against Russia's participation.

If the public is not to lose faith with the Olympic Games, the rest of Russia's team should also sit this one out. And not just Russia. Any other country ploughing the same muddy furrow.

The message must be that cheats are not welcome at the Games. Innocent athletes in the countries banned may suffer but no more than the thousands the cheats defraud by their presence.

Hard lessons must be taught and learned. May 17 may go down as the day when the IOC first understood it.

** NEIL WILSON reported his first Olympic Games in Munich in 1972. He has since covered another nine summer and nine winter Olympics for various newspapers, including The Independent and the Daily Mail with whom he has worked for the last 19 years as Athletics and Olympic correspondent. He was Britain's Sports Journalist of the Year in 1984 and is the author of seven books.

Keywords · Neil Wilson · Olympics · Rio 2016 · doping · IOC

For more information contact:
Laura Walden ()

All original materials contained in this section are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of Sports Features Communications, Inc the owner of that content. It is prohibited to alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.