POSTED: July 21st 2016

JOHN GOODBODY: CAS decision should not be followed by complete ban on Russians for Rio 2016 Olympics

The Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, Switzerland © CAS
The Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, Switzerland © CAS

THE JOHN GOODBODY COLUMN / An authoritative and exclusive series from Sports Features Communications

(SFC) The news that the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has upheld the decision that Russian track and field athletes should be banned from competing in Rio should be welcomed by everyone, who still has some belief in the integrity of the Olympics.

The International Association of Athletic Federations and its president Lord Coe should be congratulated in their original overwhelming decision that because of widespread doping and malpractice in the sport that no Russian, except those who can manifestly be shown to be clean, should take part in the Games.

Two exceptions are the U.S. based long jumper Darya Kishina and also Yuliya Stepanova, who together with her husband, were the two 'whistleblowers' who originally began to reveal the extent of malpractice in Russia. I just hope that when Stepanova runs in Rio -and as her performance at the European Championships showed, she is not fully fit -she receives personal thanks from the rest of athletes in the Olympic Stadium. She deserves it.

The Russians are protesting that innocent athletes are being prevented from participating in the Games after years of training for the event. They should blame their Ministry of Sport, to which the Russian Olympic Committee is so closely associated, for overseeing the corruption and malpractice, which has been endemic in their country.

They should also recognise that between 1960 and 1992, no black South African was able to take part in the Games although they were themselves victims of the abhorrent apartheid regime, which prevented their country from attending those Games. They were innocent too but had to accept (often willingly) that there was a greater good at stake, namely the abolition of apartheid, from which in the end their successors in South Africa were to benefit.

The next stage this week should be for Russia to be excluded from all sports at the 2016 Olympics. I am not optimistic that this will occur, although the call from the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) is clear that this should take place. And it was the International Olympic Committee (IOC), who itself set up the Wada in 1999, with the support and recognition of the international federations, and therefore they should all be bound to take strong account of Wada's views.

The reason I am not optimistic is that several international federations, including volleyball, gymnastics, table tennis and basketball, as well as The Association of Summer Olympic Federations (ASOIF) have been reluctant to act with the moral force that should accompany their standing. The ASOIF meeting on Friday will be important, with several governing bodies pleading that as their sports were not involved in the Russian scandal, why should they get involved?

The reason that they should get involved is because there is a higher level of ethics here and, if the representatives of the international federations don't recognise that, then they should not be occupying their places of power.

Ultimately the IOC Executive Board will have the final say and their phone conference on Sunday will probably decide the outcome of this sorry episode in the history of the Olympic Movement. Some, no doubt, will say that the opinions of the individual federations should have precedence and it should be left up to them whether the Russians can compete in their sports.

This would be wrong. Such an attitude would be to absolve the IOC from its responsibility as the guardians of the Olympic ideals. The IOC is responsible for the conduct of the Olympic Games. There are precedents. In 1972, I was reporting in Munich and indeed in the Village, when Rhodesia was barred from taking part in those Summer Games with just four days to go.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of that decision 44 years ago, it did at least show that the IOC can act over the conduct of the Games. Given the ruling of the CAS, it should not shirk from making another decision now.

** JOHN GOODBODY will cover the 2016 Olympics for The Sunday Times, his 13th successive Summer Games and is the author of the audio book A History of the Olympics, read by Barry Davies, the BBC commentator. He was Sports News Correspondent of The Times 1986-2007, for whom he received journalistic awards in all three decades on the paper, including Sports Reporter of The Year in 2001.  

Keywords · Olympics · Rio 2016 · Russia · John Goodbody

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