The World Olympians Association (WOA) says a “way must urgently be found” for clean athletes to compete at major competitions when their countries have been banned for doping.
Joël Bouzou, the organisation’s President, said that banning competitors who have done nothing wrong is “unjust” and that a solution was needed.
Russia were suspended by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) last month following allegations of widespread state-sponsored doping, while Bulgaria have been banned from the Rio 2016 Olympics by the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) because of multiple failed tests during the qualification period.
These sanctions impact on all athletes from those countries, something the WOA – the member organisation for all Olympians – says is unfair.
Time, though, is fast running out for a resolution with the Rio Games due to begin in the Brazilian city on August 5.
“The World Olympians Association has today reaffirmed its full support for all clean athletes and their right to participate in the major sporting events that they have prepared so meticulously for – even if other athletes and administrators from their nation have rightly been found guilty of violating doping regulations,” a WOA statement said.
“The WOA believes that a way must urgently be found to ensure that athletes who have dedicated their life to sport without ever giving in to the temptation to take drugs, cheat their fellow competitors, deceive their colleagues and friends, and destroy the integrity of sport have their rights and their reputations protected and honoured.
“The WOA is therefore speaking out for those clean athletes that could now be potentially banned from competing due to the illegal and unethical actions of others.”
Bouzou, who won a modern pentathlon team bronze medal with France at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, said supporters would also suffer if clean athletes were denied from competing.
“We believe banning clean athletes is unjust and that sport and its many fans will ultimately pay the price as they will miss the opportunity to see their clean heroes compete at the highest level,” he said.
“Of course sanctions should be taken against cheaters whether they are athletes, officials or medical doctors.
“But the individual rights of clean athletes should also be respected as well as their right to train and to compete in the sport that they love.
“Perhaps athletes from banned countries that have a perfect anti-doping record could undergo extraordinary testing sessions enabling them to compete.
“One thing is clear: an urgent solution is needed for athletes who are seeking to qualify for and participate in major events allowing them to train, prepare and compete with certainty.”
Bouzou added that the WOA supported proposals for the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) to run independent testing for International Federations and National Olympic Committees.
“We must place our trust in the relevant authorities to do everything in their power to improve testing protocols and rid sport of cheats, but we must also respect the rights of clean athletes,” he said.
“It is not only the rights and reputations of athletes at stake, but also their ability to act as role models, inspiring young people and encouraging the next generation to take up sport.”
Russia, who were banned by the IAAF after a WADA Independent Commission report, have now been set a number of targets they must meet to be reinstated.
However, no time-frame has been set which puts their participation at Rio 2016 in doubt.
Bulgaria, meanwhile, have taken the case regarding their weightlifters to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
By Dan Palmer
This article was republished with permission from the original publisher, www.insidethegames.biz