POSTED: May 19th 2016

Olympics: Bach says no matter what Rio 2016 will be a level playing field

A big question mark hangs over Rio 2016 © Bigstock
A big question mark hangs over Rio 2016 © Bigstock

LAURA WALDEN (USA) / Sports Features Communications

(SFC) IOC President Thomas Bach feels confident that the Rio Summer Olympic Games will be a level playing field in spite of the recent doping revelations about the Sochi laboratory and the retesting of samples from Beijing 2008 and London 2012.

Bach said, "I think we have demonstrated there that we are doing everything to protect the clean athletes and to get to the bottom of this. This is why we are doing these tests irrespective of any sport or any country. This started in August of last year with the intelligence gathering so you can see that this is a very professional undertaking where we are trying to look into all the aspects to protect the clean athletes and to ensure a level playing field.

One of the biggest questions is whether the stacked allegations against Russian athletes are true will the country be exclude from competing in the Rio 2016 Games?

"There again we are clear and if the allegations are true we will hold everybody responsible who is implicated and different kinds of actions are possible," the IOC President clarified.

"This could be a lifelong ban for any implicated person that means not only athletes or the immediate entourage everybody implicated there would be held responsible and could be banned from the Olympic Games. There could be financial sanctions on organizations involved. This could include the acceptance or extension of entire federations.

However he was mum on the possible exclusion of the entire Russian NOC being banned from competing at Rio 2016, "I will not speculate now on that. It is individual justice to which every citizen and every athlete is entitled to and the collective responsibility which then depends on the degree of the involvement of such a community. Therefore I cannot speculate. We have indicated different levels and options and now whether if some other federations would be contaminated in such a way the presumption of innocence for athletes could still be applied whether the burden of proof could be reversed or whether the suspension or exclusion of the entire federation or federations then would be accepted by the IOC."

The IOC President was unaware that the United States Justice Department began their own investigation into the Sochi allegations "We have no information, I don't even know about any legal grounds regarding this."

Who will take the decision to disqualify the Russians?

The Champion fencer replied, "First of all it is in the hands of the international federations who manage their sport to decide the eligibility of the athletes. As you can see with the example of the IAAF who will have their meeting in the middle of June.

"Some of the athletes are the same ones who participated in Beijing and in London and may qualify for Rio.

The IAAF Council will meet June 17 to decide if they lift the suspension on Russia or ban it from the Rio Games.

One of the other concerns is whether the WADA investigation will be concluded prior to the opening of the Rio Games in less than 80 days.

Bach said, "This is in the hands of WADA, I know from the consultations that we had with WADA and the WADA President that they will do everything to speed this inquiry up and to shed the full light on the allegations.  The timing is one of the reasons and is why I am calling on everybody who has to contribute to this inquiry to turn to WADA today.

The President also confirmed that he had not been in contact with Russian President Vladimir Putin, "I have had no communication whatsoever from the Kremlin.

Russian apology

Russian Sports Minister, Vitaly Mutko, has apologized in a statement: "In under three months, one of the world's greatest sporting spectacles will begin in Rio: a festival of sporting excellence and excitement bringing together athletes from all corners of the globe. Except from Russia. As it currently stands, when the Olympic flame is lit in the "Maracan√£ stadium" on August 5, our track and field athletes may not be there.

"The reasons for the All-Russian Athletics Federation being suspended from the IAAF have been well-documented. They are weighty. Serious mistakes have been made by the Federation management, along with athletes and coaches who have broken anti-doping rules and neglected the principle of fair play, so fundamental to sport for immediate benefits. Let us be clear. We are ashamed of them.

"We are very sorry that athletes who tried to deceive us, and the world, were not caught sooner. We are very sorry because Russia is committed to upholding the highest standards in sport and is opposed to anything that threatens the Olympic values.

"Since Russia was suspended last November, with RUSADA, the Moscow laboratory and the ARAF all losing their WADA status, we have agreed a road-map with WADA aimed at restructuring these organisations, taking a series of steps to demonstrate how committed we are to ensuring that sport in our country is clean and fair.

"Before the Rio Games begin, our aspiring Olympians will undergo a minimum of three anti-doping controls carried out by the IAAF - in addition to any testing that they receive in all qualifying competitions. In addition, two international experts are now based in Moscow to supervise all activities of our anti-doping agency.

"We have also signed an agreement with the UK's anti-doping agency, UKAD, to carry out all anti-doping activities until our programme is restored, and we have made key changes to the leadership of the All-Russia Athletic Federation to give the sport a fresh start. Furthermore, all disputed cases of alleged doping have been handed over to the sports arbitration court (CAS) in Lausanne in order that the process can be extra-transparent.

"We will do everything humanly possible to ensure our athletes are a part of clean, fair and enthralling Games."

IOC not waivering

However IOC President Bach is holding firm, "First of all we have allegations and we have a procedure in place to clear these allegations up with the WADA inquiry and these responsible decisions you can only take on established facts and not on allegations. This is where we are, what I can say is once again reiterating our clear policy regardless of Russia we are holding everybody responsible within our reach who is implicated  in infringement of the anti-doping rules and our zero tolerance policy.

Tokyo 2020 bid allegations

On another front, the IOC is facing pressure about a multimillion-dollar payment made by the Tokyo 2020 bid committee to a Singaporean firm linked to Papa Massata Diack, son of the disgraced former head of the IAAF.  Lamine Diack and his son are being investigated by the French authorities over a conspiracy to cover up Russian athletes' positive doping tests and the curious payoff to the now defunct and little known consultancy firm caught their attention.

Bach noted, "This is of course speculation, we are not amused if there are allegations against the Olympic candidature of Tokyo. But there again this is about zero tolerance. We have in the IOC all the instruments in place to fight against corruption. That does not mean that we are immune to corruption, but we do everything we can to address and to fight this evil.

"And therefore the IOC's chief Ethics and Compliance officer has been in contact from the very beginning, on one hand with the French prosecutors and on the other hand with the Japanese side asking for information. We have now the statement from the Japanese side of which we took note. We will on the other hand maintain our position as civil party to the French prosecution and continue to actively cooperate with the French inquiry.  

"There is a legal procedure going on in France and we are a civil party to this inquiry and we will not start a parallel inquiry because this could hinder the legal procedures in France. So our way of approaching this is the active cooperation with the French authorities," Bach concluded.

Part II 

**LAURA WALDEN has over twenty-five years of experience in the Olympic Movement, formerly at the European Olympic Committees with SportEurope under former IOC President Dr. Jacques Rogge and IOC Member Mario Pescante. She worked with the Rome 2004 and Turin 2006 Olympic bids and also managed PR & media for Dr. Jacques Rogge during his campaign for the presidency.

Keywords · Olympics · Rio 2016 · Thomas Bach · IOC

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