Britain’s world and Olympic long jump champion, Greg Rutherford, led the condemnation of the International Olympic Committee’s decision not to issue a blanket ban on the Russia team for Rio, calling it “a spineless attempt to appear as the nice guy to both sides”, and warning the IOC had thrown away the opportunity to make a clear statement of intent against those who cheat.
“I had a terrible feeling that arms would be twisted,” he told the Guardian. “We know the pros and the cons of a blanket ban, we know the risks of ‘collective justice’, but we also know the risk of not punishing a culture of doping that comes from the very top. I would say that the latter is a much greater threat to sport.”
The IOC ruling means Russian athletes will be allowed to compete in Rio if they can prove “to the full satisfaction of their international federation”, as well as the IOC and court of arbitration for sport, that they are demonstrably clean. But Rutherford believes the IOC has created an unseemly mess.
“We’ve certainly not been given a clear message of transparency and progress,” he added. “I would have almost been happier if the decision had been a bullish refusal to act in any way. But no, what we have now is a messy, grey area that doesn’t help anyone. This is a spineless attempt to appear as the nice guy to both sides. It’s a decision without the strength of conviction to sever friendships and take action, or indeed the confidence to recommend against any ban at all.”
“The inconsistency is truly astonishing. Introducing a last-minute ban on Russian athletes who have served a doping ban whilst still allowing athletes from other countries with exactly the same record is like asking a starving man to say thank you for giving him a single grain of rice - it’s in theory the right thing to do, but it doesn’t help,” he added.
“If you’re going to make that move, make it with some conviction and reapply it across the board, or don’t make it at all.
“Don’t pass the baton to individual federations whilst knowing full well that they have neither the time nor resources to implement any action before the Games begin.”
Rutherford praised the International Association of Athletics Federations and its president, Sebastian Coe, for banning those Russian track and field athletes who could not prove they had been tested outside their country’s discredited anti-doping system. “I have to say I am proud of my own sport and it’s new leadership, for the proactive and strong stance taken a few weeks ago,” he said.
“Athletics set the right sentiment for a clean and believable sport. We’re not there, we may never get there – I am still very unhappy that many convicted cheats continue to compete – but without a consequence for institutional-level actions how on earth do we expect to make any progress?
“I also feel a little surprised that more athletes are not more vocal about this, especially those with a powerful voice in Olympic sport. I do understand, however, it’s 10 days before the games, and I must admit I was tempted to join them in keeping quiet, to only focus on my own performance and maintain positivity, but I feel too passionate about this.”
Giving her reaction to the IOC’s decision, marathon world record holder Paula Radcliffe, wrote: “A sad day for Clean Sport. A decision that shows the IOC’s primary concern is not to protect clean athletes, not to be able to look at THEM in the eye and promise they did all they could to ensure a level playing field.”
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