OLYMPIC leaders have stopped short of imposing a complete ban on Russia from the Rio de Janeiro Games, assigning individual global sports federations the responsibility to decide which athletes should be cleared to compete.
The decision, announced after a three-hour meeting via teleconference of the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) executive board, came just 12 days before the August 5 opening of the games.
“We had to balance the collective responsibility and the individual justice to which every human being and athlete is entitled,” IOC president Thomas Bach said.
The IOC rejected calls from the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) and dozens of other anti-doping bodies to exclude the entire Russian Olympic team following allegations of state-sponsored cheating.
Russia’s track and field athletes have already been banned by the IAAF, the sport’s governing body, a decision that was upheld on Thursday by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, and was accepted by the IOC again on Sunday.
Calls for a complete ban on Russia intensified after Richard McLaren, a Canadian lawyer commissioned by Wada, issued a report accusing Russia’s sports ministry of overseeing a vast doping programme of its Olympic athletes.
Mr McLaren’s investigation, based heavily on evidence from former Moscow doping lab director Grigory Rodchenkov, affirmed allegations of brazen manipulation of Russian urine samples at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, but also found state-backed doping had involved 28 summer and winter sports from 2011 to 2015.
The IOC board decided against the ultimate sanction, in line with Mr Bach’s recent statements stressing the need to take individual justice into account.
The IOC said the McLaren report had made no direct accusations against the Russian Olympic Committee “as an institution”.
“An athlete should not suffer and should not be sanctioned for a system in which he was not implicated,” Mr Bach said.
The IOC also said Russia is barred from entering for the Rio Games any athlete who has ever been sanctioned for doping.
In a statement, the IOC said it would accept the entry of only those Russian athletes who meet certain conditions set out for the 28 international federations to apply.
It also rejected the application by Russian whistleblower Yulia Stepanova, the 800-metre runner and former doper who helped expose the doping scandal in her homeland, to compete under a neutral flag at the games.
The IOC added that it would invite her and her husband, Vitaly Stepanov, to attend the games.
Russia’s sports minister said the majority of the team complies with IOC criteria on doping and will be able to compete in Rio.
Athletes who have previously served doping bans will not be eligible while international federations will also analyse an athlete’s testing history.
Vitaly Mutko says the criteria are “very tough but that’s a kind of challenge for our team ... I’m sure the majority of our team will comply”.
About 80% of the Russian team regularly undergoes international testing of the kind specified in the IOC criteria, he adds.
Mr Mutko also said he accepts the criteria but adds it is not fair that former dopers from other countries can compete.