News by VICE

IOC says Russia can compete in summer olympics despite doping scandal

The International Olympic Committee has ruled that each individual sports federation should determine whether Russian athletes are clean and eligible to compete.

by Tess Owen
Jul 24 2016, 4:55pm

Une photo du drapeau russe et du drapeau olympique dans le stade olympique de Sotchi, le 23 février 2014. (Kay Nietfeld/EPA)

The Russian olympic team has escaped an all-out ban from Rio 2016 in the wake of the country's doping scandal.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has instead ruled that each individual sports federation should determine whether Russian athletes are clean and eligible to compete.

Earlier this month, Canadian law professor Richard McLaren unveiled his damning report, which exposed the extensive state-sponsored doping practices among Russian Olympic athletes. McLaren found that Russia had run a state-sponsored doping scheme between 2011 to 2015.

The report, which was commissioned by the World Anti-Doping agency, confirmed what whistleblowers have alleged: that Russian authorities had covered up state-sponsored doping of their athletes during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. It also followed a decision by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) to ban Russia from competing in track and field races during the Rio Olympics.

President Vladimir Putin denied the allegations, which he described as a smear campaign driven by anti-Russian sentiment. "Today we see a dangerous relapse of politics intruding into sports" he said, warning of a growing geopolitical "schism."

Related: Russian track and field athletes just got banned from the Rio Olympics

Alexander Zhukov, the president of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) presented his case to the IOC, stressing that Russia "is committed to clean sport."

Zhukov said that all athletes planning to compete in the Olympics had been tested over the last six months by foreign anti-doping agencies, and that more than 3,000 Russian samples were taken by foreign doping control officers and analyzed in foreign labs. The vast majority of the results reportedly came back negative.

"Russian athletes in any of the 28 Olympic summer sports have to assume the consequences of what amounts to a collective responsibility in order to protect the credibility of the Olympic competitions" the IOC said in a statement. "The "presumption of innocence" cannot be applied to them."

The IOC also rejected Russian track and field athlete Yulia Stepanova's request to compete in the Rio Olympics under a "neutral flag." Stepanova's testimony as a whistleblower featured heavily in the report, and it was on those grounds that she wanted neutral athlete status.

"The executive board would like to express its appreciation for Mrs Stepanova's contribution to the fight against doping and to the integrity of sport" the IOC said in a statement, but added that Stepanova's own past involvement with performance-enhancing drugs excluded her from the competition and said she did not meet the criteria for a "neutral athlete."

The 2016 Rio Olympics will begin on August 5.

Follow Tess Owen on Twitter: @misstessowen