IOC to ‘explore legal options’ to potential Russian ban from Rio Olympics

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LONDON (AP) – With just over two weeks until the opening ceremony, Russia still doesn’t know whether its athletes – all or even some – will be competing in the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. It may all come down to the lawyers.

While the IOC decided Tuesday to ban from the Rio Games all Russian Sports Ministry officials and other administrators implicated in allegations of a state-run doping program, it delayed a ruling on whether to take the unprecedented step of barring the entire Russian Olympic team.

The International Olympic Committee said it “will explore the legal options with regard to a collective ban of all Russian athletes for the Olympic Games 2016 versus the rights to individual justice.”

The IOC has also said it could let individual international sports federations decide on whether to ban Russians from their events in Rio, just as the IAAF has done by ruling track and field athletes from the games. The 28 international federations that govern the individual sports at the summer games have made clear that they do not support a blanket ban,

The IOC’s legal options may become clearer after Thursday, when the highest court in sports will rule on an appeal by 68 Russian track and field athletes seeking to overturn their ban from the games.

Two-time Olympic pole vault champion Yelena Isinbayeva was among those arguing the Russian track and field team’s case Tuesday in Geneva at the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Should the court rule Thursday in their favor, it would seemingly rule out the chance of the IOC imposing a blanket ban.

If the court upholds the IAAF’s exclusion of the track athletes, however, that would keep the possibility of a total ban in play. Further appeals are also possible, meaning that the final word on the Russians may go down to the wire before Aug. 5, when the Rio games open.

Still, it will take a major leap for the IOC to impose the ultimate sanction of kicking out Russia entirely. IOC President Thomas Bach has repeatedly called for a balance between “individual justice and collective punishment.”

No country as a whole has ever been barred from the games for doping, and Russia is a major force in the Olympic movement as well as a sports powerhouse. The last time Russia was missing from the Olympics was when it boycotted the 1984 Los Angeles Games in retaliation for the U.S. boycott of the 1980 Moscow Games following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

Russian President Vladimir Putin called the doping allegations “a dangerous return to … letting politics interfere with sport.”

“The Olympic movement, which is a tremendous force for uniting humanity, once again could find itself on the brink of division,” he said in a statement Monday after the release of the report into Russian doping issued by Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren.

The 15-member IOC executive board met by teleconference Tuesday to consider its moves following McLaren’s report.

The report, commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency, accused the Russian Sports Ministry, headed by Vitaly Mutko, of overseeing the doping of the country’s Olympic athletes on a scale larger than previous alleged. It said the ministry had help from Russia’s intelligence service, the FSB.

The investigation uncovered an alleged doping program that ensnared 28 sports, both summer and winter, and ran from 2011 to 2015. It found 312 positive tests that Russia’s deputy minister of sport directed lab workers not to report to WADA.

Mutko on Tuesday denied all wrongdoing and said he expected his subordinates to be cleared. But addressing the ban by the IOC of Russian sports administrators, he said he was ready to accept it because “we have always been guests at the Olympics,” and that the important issue was that the Russian Olympic team go to the games.

The summer sports federations prefer that doping allegations are handled on an individual basis.

The Association of Summer Olympic International Federation asked WADA “to immediately provide all the detailed information to the 20 international federations concerned so that they may begin processing the individual cases under their own separate rules and regulations as soon as possible, and in line with the WADA Code and the Olympic Charter.”

“It is important to focus on the need for individual justice in all these cases.”

Rather than applying a total ban, federations could suspend individual Russian sports. That already was the case with the IAAF ban on Russia’s track athletes from Rio following previous WADA-commissioned reports into Russian doping.

The summer association’s position falls in line with recent comments by Bach, who cited the need for balancing “individual justice and collective punishment.” He said last week that, if summer sports were implicated in the McLaren report, the federations would have to decide on the eligibility of Russians “on an individual basis.”

McLaren’s report also confirmed details of state-supported doping that subverted the testing at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi. That included allegations by Moscow’s former lab director, Grigory Rodchenkov, that dirty urine samples of Russian athletes – including medalists – were swapped out for clean ones in covert middle-of-the-night operations at the Sochi lab.

WADA and its president, Craig Reedie, urged the IOC to consider a total ban on Russia. Reedie, who is also an IOC vice president, presented details of the McLaren report to the executive board Tuesday and answered questions about it, before Bach asked him to recuse himself from the meeting because of a “conflict of interest.”

While putting off a decision on banning Russia, the executive board announced a series of measures to punish Russian athletes and officials implicated in doping.

Among the sanctions, the IOC:

– said it will not organize “or give patronage” to any sports event or meetings in Russia, including plans to hold the European Games in the country in 2019.

– will launch retesting, including forensic analysis, of doping samples from the Sochi Games. It set up a commission to carry out a “full inquiry” into all of the Russian athletes who competed in Sochi, along with their coaches, officials and support staff.

– asked WADA to extend McLaren’s mandate to disclose the names of Russian athletes whose positive doping samples were covered up, and whose samples were manipulated in Sochi.

– called on all international winter sports federations to “freeze” their plans for holding major events in Russia, including world championships and World Cups, and seek alternative venues in other countries.

The IOC said the “provisional measures” would apply until Dec. 31, and be reviewed by the IOC that month.

MORE: Olympic sports federations do not endorse total Russian ban from Rio

Paris 2024 Olympic marathon route unveiled

Paris 2024 Olympic Marathon
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The 2024 Olympic marathon route will take runners from Paris to Versailles and back.

The route announcement was made on the 233rd anniversary of one of the early, significant events of the French Revolution: the Women’s March on Versailles — “to pay tribute to the thousands of women who started their march at city hall to Versailles to take up their grievances to the king and ask for bread,” Paris 2024 President Tony Estanguet said.

Last December, organizers announced the marathons will start at Hôtel de Ville (city hall, opposite Notre-Dame off the Seine River) and end at Les Invalides, a complex of museums and monuments one mile southeast of the Eiffel Tower.

On Wednesday, the rest of the route was unveiled — traversing the banks of the Seine west to the Palace of Versailles and then back east, passing the Eiffel Tower before the finish.

The men’s and women’s marathons will be on the last two days of the Games at 8 a.m. local time (2 a.m. ET). It will be the first time that the women’s marathon is held on the last day of the Games after the men’s marathon traditionally occupied that slot.

A mass public marathon will also be held on the Olympic marathon route. The date has not been announced.

The full list of highlights among the marathon course:

• Hôtel de ville de Paris (start)
• Bourse de commerce
• Palais Brongniart
• Opéra Garnier
• Place Vendôme
• Jardin des Tuileries
• The Louvre
• Place de la Concorde
• The bridges of Paris
(Pont de l’Alma; Alexandre III;
Iéna; and more)
• Grand Palais
• Palais de Tokyo
• Jardins du Trocadéro
• Maison de la Radio
• Manufacture et Musées
nationaux de Sèvres
• Forêt domaniale
des Fausses-Reposes
• Monuments Pershing –
Lafayette
• Château de Versailles
• Forêt domaniale de Meudon
• Parc André Citroën
• Eiffel Tower
• Musée Rodin
• Esplanade des Invalides (finish)

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International Boxing Association lifts ban on Russia, Belarus

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The International Boxing Association (IBA) lifted its ban on amateur boxers from Russia and Belarus over the war in Ukraine that had been in place since early March.

“The IBA strongly believes that politics shouldn’t have any influence on sports,” the federation said in a press release. “Hence, all athletes should be given equal conditions.”

Most international sports federations banned athletes from Russia and Belarus indefinitely seven months ago, acting after an IOC recommendation. It is believed that the IBA is the first international federation in an Olympic sport to lift its ban.

The IOC has not officially changed its recommendation from last winter to exclude Russia and Belarus athletes “to protect the integrity of the events and the safety of the other participants.”

Last week, IOC President Thomas Bach said in an interview with an Italian newspaper that Russian athletes who do not endorse their country’s war in Ukraine could at some point be accepted back into international sports, competing under a neutral flag.

IBA, in lifting its ban, will also allow Russia and Belarus flags and national anthems.

“The time has now come to allow all the rest of the athletes of Russia and Belarus to participate in all the official competitions of their sports representing their countries,” IBA President Umar Kremlev, a Russian, said in a press release last week. “Both the IOC and the International Federations must protect all athletes, and there should be no discrimination based on nationality. It is the duty of all of us to keep sports and athletes away from politics.”

In 2019, the IOC stripped the IBA — then known as AIBA — of its Olympic recognition following an inquiry committee report into finance, governance, refereeing and judging. The IOC ran the Tokyo Olympic boxing competition.

The IBA will not run qualifying events for the 2024 Paris Games, but it does still hold world championships, the next being a men’s event in Uzbekistan next year.

Boxing, introduced on the Olympic program in 1904, was not included on the initial program for the 2028 Los Angeles Games but can 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,” Bach said last December.

On Sept. 23, the IBA suspended Ukraine’s boxing federation, citing “government interference.” Ukraine boxers are still allowed to compete with their flag and anthem.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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