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International sporting authorities could be asked to extend the ban on Russian athletes at this year’s Olympics, as world doping investigators prepare to release new findings on state-sponsored drug use ahead of the start of the games in August.
The International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF) last week barred Russia’s track and field team from the Rio de Janeiro games over systematic doping violations, a move that has ratcheted up tensions between the Kremlin and the west.
Speaking in London on Monday, Sir Craig Reedie, president of the World anti-doping agency (Wada), said that a forthcoming report by Canadian law professor Richard McLaren into alleged Russian doping, at the 2014 Sochi winter games, could pave the way for other Olympic sporting bodies to make a similarly “precedent-setting decision” on Russian participation at Rio.
Asked if Wada would call to extend the ban beyond track and field athletes if widespread corruption was proved, he said: “I accept that the world will expect us to speak out, and clearly we will be thinking about that before the [McLaren] report is available to us.”
The McLaren report is due to published next month. The International Olympic Committee (IOC), which has ultimate authority over the games, will give its view on Russian participation in Rio on Tuesday.
Wada began investigating doping at Sochi 2014 after Grigory Rodchenkov, a former head of the Russian anti-doping agency (Rusada), told The New York Times last month that Russia had systematically cheated on doping investigations during the competition with the help of the FSB, the successor of the KGB. President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman has dismissed the allegations as “smears by a turncoat”.
In a sign of the likely political fallout should the Russian ban be reaffirmed or extended, Mr Putin has warned the international community against singling out his country over misconduct in sport. “If somebody is trying to politicise this, that’s a big mistake,” he said on Friday.
“I don’t think there’s any political issues,” Sir Craig said on Monday. “This is a straightforward sports inquiry… [Russia] was not playing by the rules.”
The IAAF suspended Russian track and field athletes from international competition in November after a Wada investigation found widespread use of banned substances among the country’s athletes and cover-ups by its sports officials. Wada also blocked Rusada from carrying out its supervisory duties.
Dick Pound, former Wada chief who led the investigation, said this weekend that barring Russian competitors across all sports was the “nuclear option” but “not impossible” given growing evidence of state involvement in doping.
On Tuesday, the IOC is expected to discuss the implications of the “crack in the door” created by the IAAF, which would allow participation in Rio if “individual athletes ... can clearly and convincing show that they are not tainted by the Russian system”.
This could benefit the whistleblower Yulia Stepanov, the Russian middle-distance runner who first revealed details of the national doping regime.
Russia’s ministry of sport said it is appealing against the IAAF’s decision to the IOC while Elena Isinbaeva, a two-time gold-winning pole vaulter not among those athletes caught doping, said she would appeal to the European Court of Human Rights. Others are expected to take their cases to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Wada’s report last week suggested that there continued to be widespread non-compliance to drugs rules across Russian sport. It detailing incidents recently where athletes had attempted to bribe or run away from doping officials and said armed FSB officers threatened international drug testers with deportation.