Sports leaders call for total Russian Olympic ban ahead of McLaren report

A number of anti-doping agencies, including those in the United States and Canada, have said they want a blanket ban on Russia competing at the 2016 Olympic Games if a key report into allegations of state-sponsored doping at Sochi’s 2014 winter Olympics is damning in its content.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) in May appointed Canadian law professor Richard McLaren as an independent leader of an investigation into allegations of a doping cover-up at Sochi 2014. McLaren has been tasked with investigating the allegations made in relation to the 2014 Sochi Games, which were published by US broadcaster CBS and the New York Times newspaper earlier in May.

McLaren’s report is due to be presented later today (Monday) in Toronto, Canada, with the latest revelations emerging over the weekend in a leaked draft letter addressed to the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which was published across multiple news outlets.

McLaren’s report is expected to detail an extensive state-sponsored doping programme and in the letter, which is intended to be sent following tomorrow’s presentation, United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) chief executive Travis Tygart (pictured) calls for a ban on all Russian athletes, not just in track and field.

“We write on behalf of a community of clean athletes and anti-doping organisations with faith that the IOC can lead the way forward by upholding the principles of Olympics,” read the draft letter signed by Tygart and Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sports (CCES) chief executive Paul Melia.

“Therefore, consistent with the Principles, Charter and Code we request that the IOC Executive Board take the action to suspend the Russian Olympic and Paralympic Committee from participating in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. The only appropriate, and permissible, course of action in these unprecedented circumstances is for the IOC to immediately suspend the Russian Olympic and Paralympic Committees from the Olympic Movement…. and declare that no athlete can represent Russia at the Rio Olympic Games.”

Melia said the draft letter was backed by other anti-doping agencies. “A global group that includes various athletes committees and anti-doping organisations, including those of the United States, Germany, Japan and New Zealand, are preparing for the McLaren report,” Melia told the Reuters news agency. “If the McLaren report produces clear and convincing evidence of state-sponsored doping in sport in Russia, they are prepared to call on the IOC to ban the Russian Olympic Committee from the Games in Rio.”

Tygart added in a statement: “We always want universal inclusion at the Olympic Games, but we can’t be blind to the evidence before us, and if we – as those who cherish the Olympic values – are not preparing for all potential outcomes, then we are not fulfilling our promise to clean athletes.”

The draft letter has also been circulated to Wada Athlete Committee members by Canada’s Beckie Scott, who chairs the committee, asking whether they agree to support it. Its emergence ahead of today’s report presentation has been criticised by a number of sports stakeholders.

Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko told the Tass news agency: “The McLaren report is yet to be published, but for them (USADA) everything is already clear. This is surprising. May be it was Tygart who wrote the report himself? I would not be surprised.”

European Olympic Committees (EOC) president and IOC Executive Board member Patrick Hickey said in a statement: “My concern is that there seems to have been an attempt to agree an outcome before any evidence has been presented. Such interference and calls ahead of the McLaren Report publication are totally against internationally recognised fair legal process and may have completely undermined the integrity and therefore the credibility of this important report.”

The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) have already banned Russia’s track and field team from Rio 2016 after a separate investigation into a state-sponsored doping system used to benefit its athletes. The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) is expected to rule on July 21 on the eligibility of 68 Russian athletes who have appealed to compete in Rio.

Wada president Craig Reedie has previously said that if the McLaren investigation shows evidence of widespread state-run cheating across many sports it would be a moment for a “precedent-setting opportunity.”