(ATR) IOC President Thomas Bach says that the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics were not “tainted" by the Russian doping scandal.
He told reporters he believes that, despite the IOC keeping the suspension of the Russian Olympic Committee for the whole Games after two positive doping tests from the Olympic Athletes from Russia.
Thomas Bach at his final PyeongChang press conference (ATR)
Bach took questions from reporters for more than an hour today where he defended the decision taken by the IOC to maintain the suspension of the ROC until all doping tests for the 2018 Olympics are completely analyzed.
Then if there are no further positive doping cases from the OAR delegation, the suspension of the ROC will be lifted with immediate effect. Bach confirmed that no further action will be required by the IOC Executive Board to lift the sanction. When all of the tests will be analyzed could not be confirmed, but it is expected to be completed within the next 48 to 72 hours.
Bach said that the IOC decided to lift the suspension against the ROC despite two positive doping tests in PyeongChang because neither test shows “systemic or systematic doping” by athletes or ROC officials.
“I don’t think quite frankly these Olympic Winter Games have been tainted by the Russian affair because we had no Russian team here,” Bach said. “This was a clear message. With regard these two cases I want to repeat these are cases of negligence.”
Bach’s claim comes as headlines ahead of the Games were twice dominated by the Russian doping scandal. First, when the IOC made its initial decision to suspend the ROC last December and then again as the Court of Arbitration for Sport rejected lifetime bans for athletes found to have committed anti-doping rule violations at the Sochi Olympics as part of the Oswald Commission.
The latter decision came just days before the 2018 Olympics were to start, creating chaos and confusion about the final makeup of the OAR delegation. Eligibility questions lingered until the day before the opening ceremony when CAS upheld decisions by the IOC to not invite athletes sanctioned by the commission.
The situation was similar to the days ahead of the Rio 2016 Olympics, when the IOC ruled that each individual international federation must set eligibility criteria for the Games.
Don’t expect a repeat of this scenario for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics says Bach, given that the IOC Executive Board doled out a “fair and appropriate sanction” to the ROC for its strategic manipulation of the Sochi 2014 laboratory.
“The sanctions are there because of the systemic manipulation, so the question the invitation group had to answer was is there any indication of systemic manipulation or any assistance from the Russian Olympic Committee or of the leaders of the delegation here,” Bach said. “There the answer was no, this led to the decision that on the one hand we recognize that these two cases cast a serious shadow over the OAR delegation and this is why we did not lift the suspension, but then on the other hand there was no reason to believe that the system would continue to follow.”
During the decision making process in the IOC Session two members Tricia Smith and Barry Maister raised concerns to lifting the suspension of the ROC even after the positive doping tests. Both suggested changes to the IOC Executive Board’s recommendations regarding lifting the sanction, which were not taken into account.
OAR must march into the closing ceremony under the Olympic flag, but its suspension will be over soon (ATR)
Bach said that the decisions taken had the support of elected members of the athletes commission, which in turn represented the athletes at the Olympic Games. However, American biathlon athletes have chosen to speak out and boycott the upcoming World Cup final which is scheduled to be held in Russia because of the ongoing suspension of the Russian Anti Doping Agency (RUSADA).
“The IBU’s recent decision to move forward with the World Cup Final in Tyumen, Russia is completely unacceptable,” a statement from the American team said. “In support of clean sport and our own physical safety, we cannot in good conscience participate.”
Bach said he could not comment on the situation in biathlon, but said that it is now up for the International Federations “to play their role” in helping protect clean sport. The IOC’s authority on the matter goes away once the Olympic Games end, Bach said.
“We will always have positive tests with regard to every country, the fight against doping will never be over,” Bach said about the two cases the IOC deemed isolated. “As long as you have human beings in competition with each other you will have some who try to cheat.”
Written by Aaron Bauer in PyeongChang
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