Sports Federations, Not IOC, Will Decide Which Russian Athletes Can Play In Rio

Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko speaks to the media in Moscow, Russia, Sunday, July 24, 2016. CREDIT: PAVEL GOLOVKIN, AP
Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko speaks to the media in Moscow, Russia, Sunday, July 24, 2016. CREDIT: PAVEL GOLOVKIN, AP

On Sunday, the International Olympic Committee decided not to call for a blanket ban on Russia for the Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games after reports of doping scandals endangered the country’s chances of competing.

Instead, individual international sports federations will make the call on whether or not Russian athletes can compete in the games — which means they will review them all, one by one. Athletes who have been served suspensions for doping will not be allowed in the games. That includes athletes who already completed their suspensions, according to The Wall Street Journal. The findings must be upheld by the Court of Arbitration for Sport to be final.

The International Tennis Federation, for example, will allow the seven Russian players to compete based on their testing regime:

The IOC’s decision comes after a report that was released last week by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) investing Russia’s anti-doping efforts. The WADA recommended that Russia be banned from all international competitions and released information that the Russian Ministry of Sport erased at least 312 positive doping tests between 2011 and 2015. A whistleblower told WADA that during the Sochi Games, urine samples from athletes being monitored for doping were passed through a hole in the wall of a lab and were replaced with clean samples in order to dodge doping accusations.

The decision could mean that there are inconsistencies in decision-making, the Guardian argued, because organizations such as the International Weightlifting Federation would probably ban all Russian athletes due to high numbers of positive tests.

U.S. Anti-Doping Agency CEO Travis Tygart released a statement saying he was disappointed in the IOC’s decision.

Disappointingly, however, in response to the most important moment for clean athletes and the integrity of the Olympic Games, the IOC has refused to take decisive leadership … The IOC has stated before that they believe anti-doping should be wholly independent, and this is in part why is is so frustrating that in this incredibly important moment, they would pass the baton to sports federations who may lack the adequate expertise or collective will to appropriately address the situation … The conflict of interest is glaring.

Russian President Vladimir Putin called the scrutiny over doping a “dangerous recurrence of political interference.” Russian pole vaulter Yelena Isanbayeva commented on the issue as well, and said on on Russian TV, “Doping existed 20 years ago, and ten years ago, and everyone knows it very well because athletes were disqualified, including from other countries, but everyone went out there and competed, and there was no problem. And now the international community all together, including WADA, has turned toward Russia, how can you not say it’s politicized?”

The Russian runner Yuliya Stepanova, who acted as a whistleblower on doping among Russian athletes, spurring the conversation on widespread doping in Russia, and has been called a “Judas” by President Putin, requested to compete an independent neutral athlete. The IOC announced that it rejected her bid on Sunday.