Shock, Applause, Outrage At Decision To Ban Russia From Olympics
Anti-doping authorities heralded the decision by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on December 5 as an important milestone in the fight against doping that will go a long way to discourage illegal drug use while giving clean athletes encouragement and inspiration.
“Clean athletes won a significant victory,” said Travis Tygart, head of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency and a leading Russia critic who has accused Russia of “hijacking” the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi.
The U.S. Olympic Committee also praised what it called the IOC’s “strong and principled decision.”
Canadian investigator Richard McLaren, who authored landmark reports last year that found a Russian state scheme to help its athletes use drugs and cover up the results, congratulated the committee and said, “we need to change the culture of sport from a win-at-all-costs mentality to one that endorses fair competition.”
While Russian authorities expressed shock and outrage at the decision, they were not quick to promise retaliation like an Olympics boycott, even though that was advocated by some Russian legislators.
Some Russian officials took comfort that Russian athletes who prove themselves to be free of drugs will be able to participate in the February games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Russian Olympic Committee President Aleksandr Zhukov said that “punishing the innocent is unjust and immoral.”
“This completely contradicts the basic Olympic principles,” he was quoted as telling the Russian news agency R-Sport in Lausanne.
But he praised the IOC’s decision to allow clean competitors to compete as “Olympic athletes from Russia.”
“They’ll be called Russian athletes and not some kind of neutrals…. That’s very important,” he said.
The IOC said some Russian athletes would be allowed to compete “under strict conditions,” including being free of past doping offenses, passing drug tests, and wearing a neutral uniform.
The IOC’s executive board came to the decision after examining the findings and recommendations of a commission led by former Swiss President Samuel Schmid that has investigated the accusations of state-sponsored doping in Russia.
A 2016 report commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) found widespread evidence of state-sponsored doping across many Olympic sports in Russia.
The WADA report also found evidence of a cover-up and said Russian security agents were involved in swapping positive urine samples for clean ones at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
The IOC said that Schmid’s report confirmed “the systematic manipulation of the anti-doping rules and system in Russia.”
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IOC President Thomas Bach said that the punitive measures targeting Russia came in response to”an unprecedented attack on the integrity of the Olympic Games and sport.”
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a Facebook post following the announcement that Russia would persevere.