I have started this blog three times over the last week, and it keeps changing as more reports come out regarding the Russian doping scandal. I have gone from thinking the IOC decision was ‘passing the buck’ to the International Federations (IF), to understanding and agreeing with their stance. This was then thrown a curve ball with the IIC saying that they will have the final say on Russian athletes’ participation, which appears to contradict the opinion that the IFs should make the participation decision. With that in mind I changed my stance again……..
If any decision was going to draw a line under the attendance of Russian athletes at Rio this summer, the one made by the IOC on Sunday 24th June this was not the one. If anything the decision just muddied the already murky waters further. If they had gone to either extreme, it would have put the debate to bed. Blanket ban (a la IAAF) or allow all athletes to compete would have been understandable responses. People would have debated the rights and wrongs of both these decisions, but the confusing mess that they have created has opened a major can of worms. Of the strict liability criteria laid down by the IOC, two of them stick out alarmingly to me. The first being the passing of the buck by the IOC to the individual International Federations! The IOC, the overall controllers of the Olympic Games, can’t decide the correct course of action so passes it to the individual sports, and will probably lead them to be challenged if they decide to ban some or all athletes. This has already started as it appears that at least two swimmers are challenging the FINA decision. Already there has been a disparity in the decisions made by the IFs. Aquatics, Canoeing and Kayaking, Modern Pentathlon, Rowing and Sailing have banned some athletes scheduled to attend Rio, while eight sports have been given all qualifiers the all-clear. The explanations for allowing all athletes was that they have been tested frequently outside of the discredited Russian lab, which is a fully understanding decision. There is further confusion for the IFs in team sports in that if two members of a team have been implicated in possible wrong-doing the whole team should be banned. This is according to the WADA code. Does this now follow for individuals within a sport.
This ties in with my second concern. The IOCs decision to ban any athlete that has previously been banned for a doping goes against legal precedent. Since the IOC dropped the Osaka Rule* (rule 45 of the Olympic Charter) following a challenge from LaShawn Merritt, the British Olympic Association (BOA) dropped their bylaw regarding convicted drugs offenders having a lifetime ban from Team GB.
Since the Osaka Rule was repealed, the decision by the IOC stating that any Russian athlete who had failed a drugs test was banned from Rio will be very difficult to defend in court. This may be part of their end game as the Court for the Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has already set up a fast-track doping cases before the Olympics.
So with less than five days before the opening ceremony of the Olympics, everyone is talking about the Olympics, but unfortunately for the wring reasons. While the decision taken was done so that the IFs could decide if their drugs testing could reasonably allow the athletes to be presumed clean, the other strict liability clauses ties their hands, so creates further confusion as to who has the end responsibility.
Hopefully when the games start on Friday, we will forget about all these shenanigans and enjoy the great feats of all the athletes.
*Osaka Rule: Rule 45 of the Olympic Charter. Introduced during the IAAF World Athletic Championship in 2007. It prevented athletes that had been banned for a ‘Serious’ drug offence from taking part in the next Olympic they were eligible for.