Thomas Bach cites ‘right to individual justice’ in Russian doping

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LONDON (AP) — International Olympic officials will try to find “the right balance between collective responsibility and individual justice” in dealing with Russian doping allegations ahead of the games in Rio de Janeiro, IOC President Thomas Bach said Wednesday.

Bach spoke in an interview five days before the release of a report by Canadian law professor Richard McLaren into allegations of a state-sponsored Russian doping conspiracy at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi.

Some officials, including the CEO of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, have said Russian athletes in all sports should be barred from competing for their country at the Rio Games if McLaren’s report produces evidence that Russia’s sports ministry was involved in subverting the Olympic drug-testing system.

Bach said he could not speculate on what the report might say or what the consequences might be, but stressed that the International Olympic Committee would take the rights of individual athletes into account.

“It is obvious that you cannot sanction or punish a badminton player for infringement of rules or manipulation by an official or lab director in the Winter Games,” he said in a phone interview with The Associated Press and two other international news agencies.

“What we have to do is to take decisions based on facts, and to find the right balance between collective responsibility and individual justice,” Bach added. “The right to individual justice applies to every athlete in the world.”

Bach said if the report highlights doping in summer sports, it would be up to international federations to decide on the eligibility of Russian athletes or coaches on an “individual basis.”

“Everybody not implicated cannot be made responsible for the misbehavior of others,” he said.

McLaren was commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency to investigate allegations made by Grigory Rodchenkov, the former director of Moscow’s drug-testing lab. He told the New York Times that he doped dozens of athletes, including at least 15 medalists, before the 2014 Olympics and helped switch clean samples for tainted ones through a concealed hole in the wall of the Sochi lab during the games.

Rodchenkov, who is now living in the United States, said he operated on instructions from Russia’s sports ministry, which denies the claim.

“We have to see the allegations,” Bach said. “We have to see how far it goes, what the evidence is and then we have to evaluate the report. If, at the end of this procedure, there should be proven infringements of the anti-doping rules or manipulation of tests, then together with the winter sports federations we will take the necessary measures.”

MORE: Russia Olympic doping probe results coming Monday

Bach said measures could be taken against athletes, officials or others.

“This can include further institutional measures, in particular on the level of the international federations,” he said, suggesting the possibility of Russian winter sports bodies being suspended.

McLaren’s report, however, is also expected to look into doping in other sports in Russia.

Last month, McLaren said his preliminary findings supported allegations that the Russian sports ministry was involved in manipulating test results before, during and after the track world championships in Moscow in 2013.

Bach noted that a recent Olympic summit agreed that the presumption of innocence has been reversed in the case of Russian athletes, meaning they have to prove they are clean.

“For us it is very clear, everybody implicated in a doping case has to be sanctioned and will be sanctioned,” he said.

Russia’s track and field athletes remain banned by the IAAF based on a WADA investigation last year that detailed alleged state-sponsored doping.

Russia has appealed, and a ruling by the Court of Arbitration for Sport is expected next Thursday. Asked whether the IOC would accept the ruling if it upholds the exclusion of the Russians, Bach said, “Yes.”

The IAAF also passed a rule allowing for Russian athletes who have been outside the country and subject to reliable testing to apply to compete as neutral athletes. Only one athlete, U.S.-based long jumper Daria Klishina, was accepted among 68 applicants.

While the IAAF says she should compete under a neutral flag, Bach reiterated the IOC position that, if deemed eligible, Klishina would “be a full member” of the Russian Olympic Committee team and come under the national flag.

In a separate case, Russian 800-meter runner Yulia Stepanova, a former doper who helped blow the whistle on systematic cheating in her country, has been cleared to compete as a neutral athlete under an IAAF “exceptional eligibility” rule. The IOC is currently studying her case and whether it merits “an exemption” from the Olympic Charter.

MORE: USADA CEO: Report could justify Russia’s exclusion from Rio

Elena Fanchini, medal-winning Alpine skier, dies at 37

Elena Fanchini
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Italian skier Elena Fanchini, whose career was cut short by a tumor, has died. She was 37.

Fanchini passed away Wednesday at her home in Solato, near Brescia, the Italian Winter Sports Federation announced.

Fanchini died on the same day that fellow Italian Marta Bassino won the super-G at the world championships in Meribel, France; and two days after Federica Brignone — another former teammate — claimed gold in combined.

Sofia Goggia, who is the favorite for Saturday’s downhill, dedicated her win in Cortina d’Ampezzo last month to Fanchini.

Fanchini last raced in December 2017. She was cleared to return to train nearly a year later but never made it fully back, and her condition grew worse in recent months.

Fanchini won a silver medal in downhill at the 2005 World Championships and also won two World Cup races in her career — both in downhill.

She missed the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics because of her condition.

Fanchini’s younger sisters Nadia and Sabrina were also World Cup racers.

USA Boxing to skip world championships

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USA Boxing will not send boxers to this year’s men’s and women’s world championships, citing “the ongoing failures” of the IBA, the sport’s international governing body, that put boxing’s place on the Olympic program at risk.

The Washington Post first reported the decision.

In a letter to its members, USA Boxing Executive Director Mike McAtee listed many factors that led to the decision, including IBA governance issues, financial irregularities and transparency and that Russian and Belarusian boxers are allowed to compete with their flags.

IBA lifted its ban on Russian and Belarusian boxers in October and said it would allow their flags and anthems to return, too.

The IOC has not shifted from its recommendation to international sports federations last February that Russian and Belarusian athletes be barred, though the IOC and Olympic sports officials have been exploring whether those athletes could return without national symbols.

USA Boxing said that Russian boxers have competed at an IBA event in Morocco this month with their flags and are expected to compete at this year’s world championships under their flags.

“While sport is intended to be politically neutral, many boxers, coaches and other representatives of the Ukrainian boxing community were killed as a result of the Russian aggression against Ukraine, including coach Mykhaylo Korenovsky who was killed when a Russian missile hit an apartment block in January 2023,” according to the USA Boxing letter. “Ukraine’s sports infrastructure, including numerous boxing gyms, has been devastated by Russian aggression.”

McAtee added later that USA Boxing would still not send athletes to worlds even if Russians and Belarusians were competing as neutrals and without their flags.

“USA Boxing’s decision is based on the ‘totality of all of the factors,'” he said in an emailed response. “Third party oversite and fairness in the field of play is the most important factor.”

A message has been sent to the IBA seeking comment on USA Boxing’s decision.

The women’s world championships are in March in India. The men’s world championships are in May in Uzbekistan. They do not count toward 2024 Olympic qualifying.

In December, the IOC said recent IBA decisions could lead to “the cancellation of boxing” for the 2024 Paris Games.

Some of the already reported governance issues led to the IOC stripping IBA — then known as AIBA — of its Olympic recognition in 2019. AIBA had suspended all 36 referees and judges used at the 2016 Rio Olympics pending an investigation into a possible judging scandal, one that found that some medal bouts were fixed by “complicit and compliant” referees and judges.

The IOC ran the Tokyo Olympic boxing competition.

Boxing was not included on the initial program for the 2028 Los Angeles Games announced in December 2021, though it could still be added. The IBA must address concerns “around its governance, its financial transparency and sustainability and the integrity of its refereeing and judging processes,” IOC President Thomas Bach said then.

This past June, the IOC said IBA would not run qualifying competitions for the 2024 Paris Games.

In September, the IOC said it was “extremely concerned” about the Olympic future of boxing after an IBA extraordinary congress overwhelmingly backed Russian Umar Kremlev to remain as its president rather than hold an election.

Kremlev was re-elected in May after an opponent, Boris van der Vorst of the Netherlands, was barred from running against him. The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled in June that van der Vorst should have been eligible to run against Kremlev, but the IBA group still decided not to hold a new election.

Last May, Rashida Ellis became the first U.S. woman to win a world boxing title at an Olympic weight since Claressa Shields in 2016, taking the 60kg lightweight crown in Istanbul. In Tokyo, Ellis lost 3-0 in her opening bout in her Olympic debut.

At the last men’s worlds in 2021, Robby Gonzales and Jahmal Harvey became the first U.S. men to win an Olympic or world title since 2007, ending the longest American men’s drought since World War II.

The Associated Press and NBC Olympic research contributed to this report.

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