POSTED: December 9th 2016

JOHN GOODBODY: McLaren's Report even worse than expected - will the IOC act?

Professor Richard McLaren revealed the findings of the report in London this morning © WADA
Professor Richard McLaren revealed the findings of the report in London this morning © WADA

Big media attendance for the press conference © WADA
Big media attendance for the press conference © WADA

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

(SFC) The sheer scale of the evil of Russian drug-taking may have been laid bare by the latest report by Professor Richard McLaren but the question is: how will the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the international federations react?

The details in the Canadian's report are so disturbing that one wonders just how the IOC can fail to punish Russia for allowing such abuse to occur, especially as at least some of it seems to have been with the agreement of the sporting or state authorities.

Professor McLaren has found that more than 1,000 Russians, from about 30 sports, benefitted from the doping programme between 2011 and 2015. He said at a news conference in London that:"It was a cover-up that evolved from uncontrolled chaos to an institutionalised and disciplined medal-winning conspiracy".

 He added that the London Games, where Russia finished fourth in the medal table, with 72 medals, of which 21 were gold, was "corrupted on an unprecedented scale." In all, 15 Russian medal winners were implicated in London, 10 of the medals having already been taken away.

The report, commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency, adds greater substance to the one last July and makes a number of grave accusations. These include two Russia female  ice hockey players at the Sochi Games having actually provided male urine samples and three others having salt readings that were physiologically impossible for human to provide.

 The specimens of 12 medal-winning athletes at Sochi seemed to have been tampered with, (thanks to the Russian secret service), while a clean urine store was maintained in Moscow.

The reaction in Russia was condemnatory, although it came out before individuals had read the report. Ria Novosti Agency quoted Dmitry Svishchev, the MP and president of the country's curling federation, as saying: "This is what we expected. There's nothing new, only empty allegations against all of us. If you are Russian, you'll get accused of every single sin."

More interesting was the reaction of the IOC. President Dr. Thomas Bach told a news conference that the report would be considered by two commissions and only after their recommendations would the IOC decide what to do.

 However, he added: "If you ask me for my private opinion then personally if you have an athlete being part of such a manipulation system, clearly I would not like to see this person compete again."

On first sight this seems disproportionate to the competitor involved (and might well not stand up to legal scrutiny) depending on the severity of the offence. But Dr. Bach, as unfortunately so often since the election over three years ago, is missing the point.

The real culprits here are the officials, the men who helped ensure the athletes would not immediately be caught. They are part of the state system and it is the state, which is responsible for this collective attempt to manipulate the results of the Games.

The IOC is responsible for the Games. It is the body, which oversees both the Summer and Winter Games. It should be ensuring the integrity of international sport at their events and clearly this has not occurred.

The IOC has already lost much credibility. It failed to ban Russia from the 2016 Summer Games and instead handed the decision to the international federations, who, with the commendable exception of athletics and weightlifting.

However, it should now bar Russia from the 2018 Winter Games and recommend to the international federations that they should not stage any further events until 2018 at the earliest. Russia should only be readmitted when the Wada is completely happy that there has been a change of culture in ethical values.

** 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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