International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach has increased pressure on Russia on the eve of the McLaren Report findings by calling for a life ban from the Olympic Games for all figures proven to be involved in the manipulation of doping samples.
It came as part of the German’s most clear condemnation of Russia since the allegations of state sponsored doping at the Sochi 2014 Winter Games surfaced in May.
The IOC claim to still be unaware of the findings of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA)-commissioned investigation by Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren, due to be unveiled in London tomorrow.
As such, Bach said he “cannot speculate” before offering a “private opinion” in which he compared the case with the lifetime bans an IOC Disciplinary Commission he headed gave to six Austrian biathletes and cross-country skiers found guilty of attempted blood doping at Turin 2006.
“If, for instance, you would have an athlete being part of such a manipulation and benefiting in the Olympic Games, my consequences would not differ from the ones we took under my chair in the Disciplinary Commission concerning the Austrian athletes in the time of Turin,” he said.
“If an athlete or an official would be part of such a system, I would not like to see the person again at any Olympic Games in whatever function.
“Not as an athlete, as a coach or as an official.
“This, for me, would represent such aggravated circumstances.
“For me the logical consequence would be a life ban from the Olympic Games.”
Bach also singled out Russia when speaking about the results of the IOC’s retesting program from the Beijing 2008 and London 2012 Games.
The country has contributed 27 of the 79 sanctioned athletes so far.
“Our successful anti-doping retesting program undertaken together with WADA raises concerns with regard to some countries, in particular Russia, and to some sports, in particular weightlifting,” he said, in a tone implying far more cooperative relations between the IOC and the global drugs testing body.
“We will have to consult with WADA and cooperate with WADA about this situation.”
McLaren’s Report is expected to find more evidence to back up claims made in July about doping samples at Sochi 2014 being illegally swapped for fake ones.
The IOC have set-up two separate investigations – chaired by two Swiss officials in the country’s former President Samuel Schmid and IOC member Denis Oswald – which are vowing to consult with both McLaren and figures within Russia before taking action.
If evidence of the manipulation of samples is found tomorrow, a key question will concern whether athletes implicated can be punished even if there is no specific proof of their doping – because of the disappearance of the evidence.
Bach, a lawyer by trade, and other IOC officials appear confident of this being possible, as suggested by the parallel drawn with the Austrian case.
Another key question from the IOC perspective concerns whether direct evidence showing the complicity of the Russian Olympic Committee in the system will be found.
The lack of a clear link was one reason given for why the IOC rejected a WADA call for a Russian blanket ban from August’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Support for the IOC and WADA response has also been given today in a statement issued by IOC Athletes’ Commission chair Angela Ruggiero.
The American, an ice hockey Olympic champion at Nagano 1998, insisted they are “fully committed to building a stronger and more effective global anti-doping system” because, as “clean athletes, we are directly affected more than anyone else, and enhancing the credibility of sport is in our fundamental collective interest.”
Russian deputy Prime Minister and former Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko has already criticized the impending findings of McLaren, however.
“Actually, after December 9, it will be clear what awaits us,” he said.
“There will be another attempt to attack the Russian sport.”
The McLaren Report is due to be published at 12.15 p.m. local time at the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel in London.
By Nick Butler
Republished with permission from insidethegames.biz.