IOC Explores 'Legal Options' on Russia Olympic Ban and Calls for Block on Country Hosting Sports Events

The Olympic body said it was exploring "legal options" around an Olympic ban.

ByPatrick Reevell
July 19, 2016, 3:14 PM

MOSCOW -- The International Olympic Committee said today it is exploring “legal options” whether to ban Russia from this summer’s Olympic Games, and called for the country to be barred from hosting some international sporting competitions over what the IOC said was a "shocking" state-sponsored cover-up of doping by Russian athletes.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA)recommended on Monday that Russia be excluded from the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro this summer after a new WADA investigation found Russia's sports ministry, helped by the F.S.B. security service, had created a system for letting dozens of athletes compete dirty, in particular at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

Following an emergency meeting to discuss WADA’s findings, the IOC held off on making a decision on that recommendation, saying in a statement it will “explore legal options” regarding a collective ban, balancing it against the “right of individual justice."

The IOC said it had to wait for the result of a court hearing ongoing in Switzerland, where the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) is considering appeals from Russian track and field athletes against an earlier ban barring them from competing in Rio. That ban by track and field’s top body, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) in June in response to WADA findings around the same doping system.

At least 67 Russian track and field athletes have appealed that collective ban. If the CAS rules in their favor, it might set a precedent that would discourage the IOC from imposing a general ban on all Russian athletes from every sport.

The IOC said in its statement today it would have to take that decision into account. The CAS hearing began today, but a verdict was expected to be made public on Thursday, July 21.

However, the IOC did impose a severe measures on Russia, saying it would not organize or support any events in Russia and calling on all winter sports federations not to hold their own championships there.

“The IOC will not organise or give patronage to any sports event or meeting in Russia,” the statement published by the IOC read, noting that this included the 2019 European Games, a large athletics event.

The IOC also barred all officials from Russia’s sports ministry from attending the Rio Olympics, meaning Russia’s sports minister himself won’t be allowed to spectate.

The IOC also appeared to raise other approaches to a ban, calling on international sporting federations to immediately open inquiries into Russian athletes and officials from their sports and if necessary to impose "sanctions." It also called for all samples from Russian athletes taken at the 2014 Sochi Olympics to be retested.

Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko reacted to the IOC decision by saying he “welcomed” it. Speaking at a news conference broadcast on Russian state television, Mutko said that Russia was “ready to cooperate” in any way.

“We never covered up anyone,” Mutko said. “If we find some kind of bureaucrat or person has been facilitating this, we will punish them. It’s really like that.”

Earlier in the day, two of Mutko’s closest subordinates were temporarily removed from their positions, after president Vladimir Putin promised anyone named by the report as directly involved would be suspended pending investigation. Almost all the officials named in the report have now been suspended.

Mutko said Russia was completely open to resolving the issues raised by the report, but Russian authorities have largely dismissed it as baseless. Putin and Mutko have both suggested the report is part of a U.S. campaign to punish Russia. Earlier today, Mutko told the Interfax news agency, “there are no state doping programs in Russia” and said the WADA report lacked sufficient proven facts.

Mutko himself is the focus of additional scrutiny, after WADA called on soccer’s international body, FIFA to investigate him and Russian soccer, which Mutko is overseeing during preparations for the 2018 soccer World Cup that Russia is hosting.

The IOC’s announcement today that it would not be holding events in Russia also potentially raised questions for FIFA.Though the IOC recommendations do not directly affect FIFA, the body may have to explain why it considered Russia acceptable to host events, when the IOC does not.

A FIFA spokesman told ABC News today that FIFA considered the IOC decision to affect winter sports competitions, not soccer. FIFA will be in charge of the anti-doping program before and during the World Cup, the spokesman noted, and that every player will be tested prior to the competition by a WADA-accredited laboratory. FIFA is in "full preparation" for the World Cup, the spokesman added, and was "convinced they will be successful events,"

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