LONDON (AP) — The IOC threw its support behind the decision to ban Russia’s track and field team from the Rio de Janeiro Olympics and said Saturday it will take “further far-reaching measures” to crack down on doping ahead of the games.
The International Olympic Committee said it “welcomes and supports” and “fully respects” Friday’s ruling by track and field’s world governing body to maintain its ban on Russia because of widespread doping.
The IOC, which has ultimate authority over the Olympics, also noted that the IAAF has control over which track and field athletes are eligible to compete at the games.
“The eligibility of athletes in any international competition including the Olympic Games is a matter for the respective international federation,” the IOC said.
The strong statement appeared to rule out any possibility of the IOC trying to overturn or amend the IAAF decision. There had been speculation that the IOC could try to impose a compromise that would allow Russian athletes without doping violations to be able to compete.
However, by accepting the IAAF decision and the federation’s jurisdiction over the athletes, the IOC indicated it will not interfere. That suggests Russia’s only recourse for fighting the decision will be at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Earlier Saturday, IOC vice president John Coates said he didn’t think the committee would overturn the IAAF ruling.
“I’d be very, very surprised,” he said. “It’s an international federation’s right to suspend a national federation and I don’t think we would overturn that at all.”
The IOC statement also appeared to open the door to potential further sanctions against Russian or other athletes.
“The IOC will initiate further far-reaching measures in order to ensure a level playing field for all the athletes taking part in the Olympic Games” in Rio, it said, without elaborating.
Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko told Russian agency R-Sport that the IOC statement was a major blow to the country’s hopes of sending a track team to Rio.
“Judging by the statement, our athletes have no chance,” Mutko said, but added Russia would continue to push for their inclusion.
On Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin condemned the IAAF decision as “unfair” and “collective punishment.”
The IOC statement was issued after a teleconference meeting of the IOC executive board. It came three days ahead of a summit of sports leaders called by the IOC to address eligibility issues for the games and “the difficult decision between collective responsibility and individual justice.”
The IOC said Tuesday’s meeting “will address the situation of the countries in which the national anti-doping organization has been declared non-compliant by WADA for reasons of the non-efficient functioning of the national anti-doping system.”
In addition to Russia, Kenya is listed as non-compliant with the World Anti-Doping Agency code and has been hit by numerous drug scandals in recent years.
On Friday, the IAAF opened a “tiny crack” that would allow any individual Russian athletes who have been untainted by doping and have been subjected to effective testing outside Russia to apply to compete in the games.
However, the IAAF said those athletes would be few – a handful – and would be eligible to compete only as “individuals” and not under the Russian flag. Russian whistleblower Yulia Stepanova was also given the chance to apply to compete as an independent athlete.
German track and field federation president Clemens Prokop, in welcoming the IAAF’s decision, called for opening “a new front” against doping in others sports and other countries.
“This can only be a start and not the end of a worldwide struggle against doping,” he said.
Prokop said Russia had a problem not only with track and field and that expulsion of Russia’s entire team should be considered.
“I can’t believe that the systematic doping in Russia is only limited to athletics,” Prokop said.
Russia’s track federation did not directly address the question of a possible appeal to CAS but said Saturday it “will use all the legal opportunities it has” to ensure Russian athletes compete in Rio.
“We will insist on the rights of clean athletes and will definitely return to the international arena,” it said.