The International Olympic Committee has confirmed 271 Russian athletes will compete in the Rio Olympics, a figure that will provoke outrage from those who argued for a blanket ban in the wake of state-sponsored doping revelations.
Even as the IOC was confirming the decision of a three-person panel appointed to review the submissions made by individual sporting federations, the court of arbitration for sport indicated up to a dozen more could be added to the total.
“The Review Panel based its review on the international federations’ decisions in relation to the entry of each individual athlete in their corresponding sport, which took into account only reliable adequate international tests, and the specificities of the athlete’s sport and its rules, in order to ensure a level playing field,”said the IOC.
The original size of the Russian team was 389. Amid a farcical process, most federations waved the majority of their competitors through with only athletics, rowing, weightlifting and canoeing taking a stronger stance.
The Cas said an IOC rule barring Russian athletes with a prior doping conviction from competing was unenforceable and could open the door for up to 12 athletes to appeal their bans, including the swimmer Yuliya Efimova.
Legal experts had warned that the sanction, understood to have been decided upon on the basis of an offer by the Russians six months earlier, was not enforceable.
Athletes from other countries who have served previous bans, such as the American sprinter Justin Gatlin, are able to compete. An earlier Cas ruling in 2011 ruled that so-called ‚“double jeopardy” was not enforceable.
The Cas said the rule “does not respect the athletes’ right of natural justice”. The court decision came in the appeal of two Russian rowers, Anastasia Karabelshivo and Ivan Podshivalov, who received two-year doping bans in 2008.
Alexander Zhukov, the head of Russia’s Olympic committee, said the majority of sports had their quota of Russian athletes accepted in full. He said full teams were approved in several sports including badminton, boxing, judo and volleyball.
The issue has dominated the build-up to the Rio Games in the wake of Professor Richard McLaren’s damning Wada-commissioned report into systemic state-sponsored doping across the majority of Olympic sports.
Many governments and national anti-doping organisations called for a blanket ban but the IOC opted instead to let individual federations decide, before putting their lists in front of a three-person panel.
Only athletics, rowing, weightlifting and canoeing have banned significant numbers of Russian athletes.
On the eve of the opening ceremony, Bach – whose links to Vladimir Putin have come under scrutiny – insisted he was comfortable with the stance the IOC had taken.
“When you take such a difficult decision and have to weigh all arguments, when you ponder these arguments, then in the end you have to bring it down for yourself to one point which leads to your decision and must be a guiding principle,” he said. “For me, after this decision you have to be able to look into the eyes of all the athletes and during my many visits to the village here in Rio I have been looking into eyes of many athletes.”
Professor McLaren has accused the IOC of misrepresenting his findings,
But Bach defended the process, which left those Russian athletes who did travel in limbo until the eve of the Olympics.
“I think this is a very thorough, strict and clear procedure and you will see the results of the individual analyses and on the application of justice in order to ensure a level playing field here at the Olympic Games,”he said. As he has since the beginning of the saga, he said that while the presumption of innocence had been reversed “natural justice does not allow us to deprive human beings of the right to prove their innocence”.
Bach pointed to the near-unanimous support he received from members over the IOC decision, with only Britain’s Adam Pengilly voting against. “I respect every athlete who may have anther opinion but I can look straightforward into his or her eyes because we have taken our decision with a very good conscience,” said Bach.
The German, who became IOC president in 2013, claimed that by allowing Russian athletes to compete at the Games they would act as an example to others.
“With this respect for individual justice we can also send a very clear message to clean athletes and to those in Russia in particular,” he said.
“You can be clean outside this system. If you are clean you are respected and rewarded and you can follow the Olympic dream as a clean athlete. We want to show them if you are clean you are much better off and can participate in the Games as a respected athlete.” A petition calling on the IOC to reverse its decision not to allow the whistleblower Yulia Stepanova to compete has gathered more than 240,000 signatures but there appears little chance of a change in position.
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