POSTED: May 31st 2017

JOHN GOODBODY: IOC must ban Russia from 2018 Olympic Games

IPC President Sir Philip Craven has put Russia on notice and they have until September to meet the requirements or they likely won't be able to compete in PyeongChang © Getty
IPC President Sir Philip Craven has put Russia on notice and they have until September to meet the requirements or they likely won't be able to compete in PyeongChang © Getty

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

(SFC) The International Olympic Committee (IOC) failed to take the moral leadership in sport and bar Russia from the Rio Games. Instead, it left the decision up to the individual federations and almost all of them meekly followed the line of the IOC.

All the more credit therefore went to the world governing bodies of athletics and weightlifting for  demonstrating ethical values in standing firm and not allowing Russian competitors, with the odd exception, to participate in 2016.

Equal credit must also be given to the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) for stepping in, where the IOC feared to tread. It refused to allow any Russians to take part in the 2016 Paralympic Games.

What increasingly is evident is that Russia has still not done enough to be welcomed back to many events. It has argued that it is not the only country to have had competitors found positive for drugs. And that is absolutely true but the extent of the problem in Russia in recent years is endemic. And there is very little evidence of its contrition, very little evidence that it recognises that it has a problem.

Its case for readmission to events such as the World Athletics Championships, which take place in London in August, or the Paralympic Winter Games in PyeongChang in 2018 has not been helped by the slew of retrospective positives from the 2008 and 2012 Olympics. To take just one discipline: more than 30 Russian walkers, including three Olympic gold medallists, have been banned in recent years.

Andy Parkinson, the Briton who chaired the IPC task force into malpractice in Russia, said recently that the problems went far beyond individual athletes and a doping system that was not strong enough to catch those athletes. "Instead the system itself and institutions that support the system were operating with the objective of circumventing the very rules the system was responsible to uphold."

This led Sir Philip Craven, the IPC President, to say that the task-force would next update the governing body in September and if the obligations had not been fully met by then, it would "very difficult for the Russian Paralympic Committee to have its suspension lifted in time to enter its athletes into the Paralympic Winter Games." In Sochi, in 2014, Russia topped the table with 80 medals.

Lord Coe, the President of the International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF), said six weeks ago that testing was far too limited, that the Russians were still refusing to release biological samples for independent testing, that competitors in 'closed' cities could not be reached to obtain samples and that coaches from a "tainted system were still plying their trade."

Instead, for the World Championships this summer, Russian competitors will only be allowed to take part if they have been independently verified under the most stringent criteria. But this week, 28 had their requests turned down, although several have been admitted to enter as neutrals, including Kseniya  Aksyonova, a European relay gold medallist, Vera Rebrik, the former European javelin champion, and Vera Rudakova,an ex-gold medallist in the World Junior Championships. Just how many more will participate we shall learn shortly.

However, there seems to have been a depressing lack of action or even comment from other international federations--weightlifting being an outstanding exception. They are presumably waiting to see what the IOC does.

Its duty is clear. The IOC should decide to bar Russia from the 2018 Winter Games because of the host country's malpractice in Sochi in 2014, something that was laid bare by the report of the World Anti-Doping Agency. If it fails to do this, then the IOC will once again have relinquished any claims to be promoting integrity in sport.

** 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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