Track and field athletes remain unable to compete for Russia at the Rio Olympics, but the International Olympic Committee decides against a blanket ban
Whistleblower Yuliya Stepanova will not be allowed to compete at the Rio Olympics following a decision of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Executive Board regarding the participation of Russian athletes at the Games.
Track and field athletes remain unable to compete for Russia at the Rio Olympics following a Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) decision to uphold the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) suspension of the Russian athletics federation from IAAF membership. That prevents athletes from competing for Russia in international events.
On Sunday (July 24) the IOC decided against imposing a blanket ban on Russian athletes’ involvement in other sports at the Games, despite the recent publication of a damning World Anti-Doping Agency-commissioned report revealing the findings of an investigation into doping cover-ups in Russian sport.
This leaves it down to the governing bodies of each individual sport to decide whether Russian athletes should be allowed to compete in their sport at the Games.
When announcing its decision, the IOC also stated that any Russian athletes who have ever been sanctioned for doping may not be entered by the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC), even if the sanction has already been served.
The suspension of the Russian athletics federation as an IAAF Member has been in place since last November and it came after a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Independent Commission report detailed findings including a “deeply rooted culture of cheating” in Russian athletics.
The ban was upheld following an IAAF Council meeting in June, but after that meeting it was announced that due to a rule amendment, Russians may still be able to compete at the Rio Olympic Games and other international competitions as “neutral” athletes.
The subject of “neutral” athletes was also addressed by the IOC, however, and it released a statement regarding Stepanova, who had been deemed by the IAAF as eligible for international competition and recently competed at the European Championships in Amsterdam.
“While it is true that Mrs Stepanova’s testimony and public statements have made a contribution to the protection and promotion of clean athletes, fair play and the integrity and authenticity of sport, the rules of the Olympic Charter related to the organisation of the Olympic Games run counter to the recognition of the status of neutral athlete,” read an IOC Ethics Commission statement.
“Furthermore, the sanction to which she was subject and the circumstances in which she denounced the doping practices which she had used herself, do not satisfy the ethical requirements for an athlete to enter the Olympic Games.”
The IOC statement added: “The IOC EB accepted the advice of the IOC Ethics Commission, also taking into consideration its above-mentioned decision not to allow any Russian athlete who has ever been sanctioned for doping to participate in the Olympic Games Rio 2016. Therefore, the IOC will not enter Mrs Stepanova as a competitor in the Olympic Games Rio 2016.
“However, the IOC EB would like to express its appreciation for Mrs Stepanova’s contribution to the fight against doping and to the integrity of sport. Therefore the IOC invites Mrs Stepanova and her husband to the Olympic Games Rio 2016. Furthermore, the IOC is ready to support Mrs Stepanova so that she can continue her sports career and potentially join a National Olympic Committee.”
On Monday (July 25), BBC sports editor Dan Roan posted to his Twitter feed a statement from Stepanova and her husband Vitaly Stepanov in which the IOC decision was challenged.
Statement by Russian whistleblowers Yuliya & Vitaly Stepanov pic.twitter.com/OLxtOxNb79
— Dan Roan (@danroan) July 25, 2016
The IAAF had also cleared Russian long jumper Darya Klishina to compete internationally as an independent “neutral” athlete but it is currently unclear what the IOC decision means for the 25-year-old’s participation in Rio.
Following the IOC decision regarding Russian athletes at the Games, the IAAF released a statement announcing that it is ready to “offer assistance” to other international federations going through the process of deciding whether athletes from that country may take part in their sport at the Games.
IAAF president Sebastian Coe said: “We have created and been through the process. We know how hard it is emotionally and rationally to get the process right.
“I have offered the help of the IAAF team to ASOIF (Association of Summer Olympic International Federations) and we continue to stand by to assist and offer advice to any international sports federations.”
» This article was updated on July 26 to include a statement released by Yuliya and Vitaly Stepanov