POSTED: December 7th 2016

JOHN GOODBODY: Russia must fear new tsunami of doping allegations in next McLaren report

Vitaly Mutko is Deputy Prime Minister of Russia © Getty Images
Vitaly Mutko is Deputy Prime Minister of Russia © Getty Images

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(SFC) Russia can expect more disgrace being heaped on its unapologetic shoulders when Professor Richard McLaren releases his latest report into malpractice in its sporting organisations. The findings to be published on behalf of the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) in London on Friday are unlikely to make welcome reading after a year, when its moral status has fallen so low.

It is true that many other countries have drugs-related issues but the extent of Russia's disgrace is remarkable. The first report by the Wada investigatory panel was bad enough but this was followed by the absolutely justified banning of Russia from the track and field athletics events at the Rio Games. The exception was the long jumper Darya Klishina, who had been independently verified as having passed the necessary tests because she had been based in the United States for the previous years. She finished ninth in Rio.

The fact that other organisations did not follow the attitude of the International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF) is testimony to their lack of ethical values, something which they unfortunately share with the International Olympic Committee (IOC). As Dick Pound, the founder President of the Wada, recently told The International Society of Olympic Historians in London the lack of firm action by the IOC was a "huge loss of moral authority by the IOC." 

At least the International Paralympic Committee had the fibre to exclude Russia from the Paralympic Games. More recently we have the retesting of many samples from the 2008 and 2012 Summer Games, in which 19 Russian competitors, mainly in athletics and weightlifting, lost medals. It is a bleak picture for international sport and especially for Russia.

And the IAAF at least has led the way to a brighter future. Last week-end in Monaco, the Norwegian Rune Andersen, the head of the IAAF taskforce, informed the Council that Russia cannot compete in international athletics until the Russian Anti-Doping Agency has been reinstated by the Wada. Russia itself does not appear to be too worried, with Vitaly Mutko, the Deputy Prime Minister, saying:"I hope the Russian Athletics Federation will be reinstated by the start of the spring season."

The IAAF will certainly allow Russian competitors to take part in 2017 even if the correct procedures are not in place provided that, like Klishina, they can prove they have been tested under the recognised protocol.

The IAAF has also now set up an independent integrity unit, separate from the world governing body and responsible for anti-doping and disciplinary issues, which will come into force on April 13. Lord Sebastian Coe, the IAAF President, who had driven forward this initiative was rewarded by an overwhelming vote of confidence with the meeting passing both it and other changes by 182-10.

The target for Russia will be to send a full team for the 2017 World Championships in London, where the Olympic Stadium, venue for the 2012 Games, promises to be an outstanding event. The championships are on course to be the best-attended in history, while the number of volunteers has been overwhelming and a selection process for them is underway.

The competition is expected to be the last major event in the extraordinary career of Usain Bolt, an athlete, who thankfully for the sport, has never been tarnished with allegations of doping. His presence would, of course, have ensured a full house in many stadia around the world but what is encouraging has been the response of spectators for other events, even the heats, in a venue, which now has a capacity of 60,000.

The question is whether Russia will be there and, if so, how their athletes will be received by the public. Given what is expected to come out of the McLaren Report on Friday and the history of Russian cheating, it may not be a sound public relations exercise for their competitors to be there in any case.

** 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.  

****The views expressed are the author's own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sports Features Communications.

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