Several former Olympians who now serve on the International Olympic Committee’s athletes’ commission have warned of catastrophic consequences if the organisation does not ban Russia completely from the Rio Games.
In a conference call on Monday night they urged the IOC to not only keep the entire Russian team away from Rio but also suggested Russia should be banned from the 2018 winter Games in Pyeongchang as well.
“I think the whole world will look at the IOC as custodians of the Olympic movement,” said former British skeleton racer Adam Pengilly, who competed in the 2006 and 2010 Olympics. “By not accepting the recommendations from Wada [World Anti-Doping Agency] we risk very much damaging the credibility of the movement and all of sport.”
The athletes on Monday’s call were either members of the IOC committee designed to give competitors a voice in the organisation or part of the Wada athletes’ commission that supports clean athletes. None of them has an official role in the McLaren report released on Monday, but they said they were speaking for other athletes who expressed support on social media for a Russian ban or had spoken with them privately.
They used words like “shocked” and “stunned” to describe their reactions to the wide-scale doping program detailed in the report, despite admitting they were not completely surprised by the results given recent reports in the New York Times and 60 Minutes revealing the extensive measures Russian authorities took to get around tests at the 2014 Sochi Olympics and in the lead-up to the 2012 London Olympics. Many of them had demanded this report last year and were happy to have finally received it, even if they were disheartened by the findings.
“It’s definitely a bad day for sports but possibly a turning point for sports,” said Hayley Wickenheiser, who has won five medals for Canada in ice hockey and softball.
The report said there was evidence the Russian sports ministry hid hundreds of positive tests in the months before the 2012 Olympics. It also confirmed reports that urine containing banned substances was switched with clean urine for Russian athlete tests during the Sochi games. Because the report described such a widespread level of cheating, the athletes said they didn’t see another solution other than banning the entire delegation.
“If you wanted to be a clean athlete in Russia in many cases you wouldn’t have been able to compete,” said former New Zealand skeleton racer Ben Sandford, who is now a member of Wada’s athlete commission. “It wasn’t just one or two sports, it was sports across the board. The numbers were remarkable. I think Russia should be totally banned from the Olympics and Paralympics. I think Russia has to look at themselves. They created this program. They have to live with the consequences.”
The International Association of Athletics Federations has already banned most of Russia’s track team from the Rio Olympics allowing only a handful of athletes who had trained away from the system to compete under an Olympic flag. With a total ban the IOC can send a message to everyone that the organisation is committed to fighting doping, the athletes on Monday’s call said.
“I feel a strong sense of accountability to the clean athletes around the world because I know what it’s like,” said one-time Canadian cross country skier Beckie Scott, who famously went from a bronze medal to a gold at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics after the top two finishers were disqualified for using banned substances.
When asked if he thought the IOC had the “will” to ban Russia completely, Pengilly – who indicated support for a 2018 ban as well – said: “I don’t know at this stage. I hope they have the will for clean sport and not politics.”
This article was written by Les Carpenter, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 19th July 2016 02.27 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010