Russian, Kenyan athletes face evaluation for Rio 2016, ROC considers legal options

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has today (Tuesday) ruled that any competitor from Russia or Kenya that intends to compete at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro will need to be individually assessed against doping and declared eligible by their sport’s international federation (IF).

The announcement was the major development to come out of an Olympic Summit meeting staged by the IOC today. The Summit was held after the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) on Friday upheld a ban on Russian athletes competing at Rio 2016. The IAAF voted unanimously to uphold its ban, saying that the country had not made sufficient progress on reforming its doping controls.

Russia has called on the IOC to consider its case, but the chances of it backing down appeared to diminish on Saturday when the body responded to the IAAF’s vote by saying that it “welcomes and supports the IAAF’s strong stance against doping.” The IOC today reiterated this stance by stating it “fully respected” the decision of the IAAF Council with regard to the specific situation of track and field in Russia.

The verdict on Russia was one of five actions made today, including the special measure relating to Russian and Kenyan athletes at Rio 2016. Currently, three National Anti-Doping Organisations (NADOs) – Kenya, Russia and Spain – are non-compliant with the World Anti-Doping Code. However, the non-compliance declaration of the Spanish NADO is for administrative reasons only and does not affect the doping-control system.

With this in mind, the IOC today said special measures will be put in place for Russian and Kenyan athletes, with president Thomas Bach (pictured) stating the unsatisfactory state of anti-doping bodies in the two countries put “very serious doubts on the presumption of innocence”.

The IOC added in a statement: “Every IF should take a decision on the eligibility of such athletes on an individual basis to ensure a level playing field in their sport. In this decision-making process, the absence of a positive national anti-doping test should not be considered sufficient by the IFs. This means that the respective IF should take into account other reliable adequate testing systems in addition to national anti-doping testing.

“This decision about the ‘level playing field’ in each of their very different Olympic sports, and eligibility, including of their member national federations, should be taken by each IF taking into account all the specific circumstances in the relevant national federations, any available evidence, the World Anti-Doping Code and the specific rules of their sport.”

However, Bach has maintained the door remains open for a limited number of Russian athletes to compete in Rio, despite the ban. He said any Russian athlete cleared by the IAAF or the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) can compete under the Russian flag.

“The position is very clear: we respect this (IAAF) decision,” Bach said, according to the Reuters news agency. “We advised today that athletes and/or the ROC (Russian Olympic Committee) may appeal. This is the good right of everybody. We expect the results of these potential court cases. If there are (Russian) athletes qualified then they will compete as members of the Russian Olympic Committee team.”

ROC president Aleksander Zhukov said clean Russian athletes would appeal the “legally indefensible” ban at the CAS. Speaking to Russian news agency Tass, Zhukov stated the ROC would not boycott Rio 2016, but could yet take legal action against the IAAF.

“Russia will not boycott the Olympics but will consider the possibility of filing a lawsuit against the IAAF,” Zhukov said. “Most probably athletes will be filing lawsuits on their own or with support from the ARAF (All-Russia Athletics Federation). The Russian Olympic Committee will certainly provide legal support. If our lawyers see that IAAF decisions affect the interests of the Olympic Movement in general or violate the Olympic Charter, then we will certainly initiate legal proceedings.”

The IOC added today that it will seek to fully review the anti-doping system by requesting the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) to convene an Extraordinary World Conference on Doping in 2017. This will in particular include the reinforcement of the request issued by the Olympic Summit in October to make the entire anti-doping system independent from sports organisations.