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Olympic Chief, World Anti-Doping Agency Spar Over Russian Ban

  • RFE/RL

International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach (right) and World Anti-Doping Agency chief Craig Reedie.

International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach (right) and World Anti-Doping Agency chief Craig Reedie.

The International Olympic Committee, which has barred over 100 Russian athletes from the Summer Games starting in Rio de Janeiro this week, is in an open dispute with the World Anti-Doping Agency that recommended a total ban on Russians in the event.

Olympic committee president Thomas Bach criticized the doping agency for bringing up the serious charges of what he called a "contemptuous system of doping" and cover-ups in Russia only weeks before the games were due to start on August 5, giving his committee little time to act.

As a result, the committee asked the federations that govern each Olympic sport to decide who should be allowed to go, and their recommendations are now being reviewed by the Olympic committee only days before the games.

"This decision is about justice," Bach said at an Olympic assembly in Rio on August 1. "Justice has to be independent from politics."

"We had to take the necessary decisions," he said. "Because of the seriousness of the allegations, we could not uphold the presumption of innocence for Russian athletes. On the other hand, we cannot deprive an athlete of the human right to be given the opportunity to prove his or her innocence."

"You cannot punish a human being for the failures of his or her government if he or she is not implicated. These principles are now being implemented," he said.

Doping agency chief Craig Reedie, who had pushed for an all-out ban on Russian athletes in Rio, said WADA had no choice but to present the Olympic committee with the allegations, which had surfaced in news stories earlier this year, once they were documented in a report by an independent commission on July 18.

"While it is destabilizing in the lead up to the Games, it is obvious, given the seriousness of the revelations that [the report] uncovered, that they had to be published and acted upon without delay," Reedie said.

Reedie added that "it was only when CBS 60 Minutes and the New York Times, on 8 and 12 May 2016 respectively, published the allegations from the former director of the Moscow and Sochi laboratories, Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, that WADA had concrete evidence suggesting Russian state involvement."

Meanwhile, in related news, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) says it will continue hearing the appeal of doping bans by Russian Olympic-medal winning swimmers who were implicated in the WADA report.

CAS said it will resume processing the cases of Vladimir Morozov and Nikita Lobintsev on August 2.

Morozov and Lobintsev are seeking to overturn their bans, claiming the suspensions are "invalid" and "unenforceable."

The CAS said on August 1 that the hearing on another swimmer's case, Yulia Efimova, was also adjourned to August 2, when a request by Daniil Andrienko and 16 other Russian rowers to be allowed to compete in Rio will be heard as well.

CAS said a decision in the appeal of the Russian Weightlifting Federation against its suspension was likely to be issued on August 3.

With reporting by AP, Reuters, and AFP