IOC weighs Russia Olympic ban; how, when decision will be made

AP
0 Comments

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — Russia could be banned from competing at the PyeongChang Olympics, a prospect that President Vladimir Putin has already warned would be humiliating for his country.

The decision will come Tuesday when the International Olympic Committee’s executive board meets in Lausanne, less than nine weeks before the Olympics open Feb. 9 in South Korea.

The 14-member board, which includes two Americans, has received a so-far confidential report from an IOC-appointed panel. That panel was asked to assess if Russian state agencies did organize the doping program used at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

IOC President Thomas Bach, a German lawyer long seen as an ally of Russia, is scheduled to announce the decision at 1:30 p.m. ET. A press conference will stream live here.

It might not be the last word, however. Russia can challenge any IOC sanction by appealing to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Here is a look at the case and the possible results:

___

PUNISHMENT OPTIONS

— A total ban on Russia competing in PyeongChang.

— Some Russian athletes compete, if judged to be clean under long-term doping controls operating to international standards. They would be classed as neutral athletes competing under the Olympic flag, and would be denied hearing the Russian anthem if they win. Those rules were imposed on Russians at the world track and field championships in August.

Putin has said either of those outcomes would be humiliating and could provoke a Russian boycott.

— The IOC board could ask the seven governing bodies for Winter Olympic sports to decide on individual athlete eligibility. That compromise applied to the Rio Olympics.

— Impose a fine on the Russian Olympic Committee. Tens of millions of dollars could go toward anti-doping work worldwide.

A financial penalty would be “grossly inappropriate,” said Joseph de Pencier, chief executive of iNADO, a global group of national anti-doping agencies.

“It would send exactly the wrong message,” de Pencier said. “It’s pay to play.”

___

TIMELINE

A big red flag regarding Russian doping went up in July 2013, weeks before Moscow hosted the world track and field championships.

British newspaper the Mail on Sunday reported wrongdoing by Grigory Rodchenkov and the Moscow laboratory he directed, but its claims were mostly ignored.

In December 2014, 10 months after the Sochi Olympics, German network ARD broadcast a film by journalist Hajo Seppelt about extensive doping in Russian track and field using footage secretly filmed by whistleblowers.

The World Anti-Doping Agency later appointed an investigation panel chaired by Richard Pound, a long-serving IOC member. That panel also included Richard McLaren.

Their reports in November 2015 and January 2016 led to the suspension of Russia’s track and field federation, anti-doping agency and the Moscow lab.

The Pound team interviewed Rodchenkov and concluded he was a key part of a conspiracy of supplying banned drugs, covering up doping cases and extorting athletes.

Rodchenkov fled to the United States. May 2016 reports detailed how, as lab director for the Sochi Olympics, he helped Russian athletes cheat. He said 15 of Russia’s 33 medals were tainted.

WADA appointed McLaren to verify the fresh allegations. Within two months, he delivered an interim report before the Rio Olympics which upheld Rodchenkov’s evidence.

“It can’t possibly be done by a couple of rogue individuals, or even a rogue department of an organization,” McLaren said last week of Russia’s doping program.

The IOC then set up two commissions. One chaired by IOC member Denis Oswald verified McLaren’s evidence to prosecute cases of Russian athletes from Sochi.

A second, now chaired by a former president of Switzerland, Samuel Schmid, was to assess if an “institutional conspiracy” existed.

The Oswald judging panel began giving verdicts last month.

By Monday, 25 Russians have been disqualified from Sochi and banned from the Olympics for life, and 11 medals were stripped. One Russian was cleared — figure skating champion Adelina Sotnikova.

Schmid has received a 50-page sworn affidavit from Rodchenkov for his report. It was set to be delivered to IOC board members Monday.

___

SOCHI PROGRAM

Rodchenkov said some Russian athletes at the Sochi Olympics used a fast-acting “Duchess” cocktail of performance-enhancing steroids dissolved in alcohol.

During the Winter Games, the athletes were protected by a urine-swapping scheme to replace dirty samples with clean urine stored months earlier.

The late-night swaps went via a “mouse hole” into a secured room at the Sochi testing laboratory.

Secret service agents had found a way to break into tamper-proof sample bottles and return them with clean urine, Rodchenkov claimed.

Cleaned-up samples could further be tampered with by adding salt to make them more credible. In cases of some players in Russia’s women’s hockey team who did not have stored urine, male DNA was found in retesting of samples that are routinely stored by the IOC for 10 years in Lausanne.

___

RUSSIAN DENIALS

Russia denies a state-sponsored doping program existed. It blames Rodchenkov, calling him a rogue employee, and wants the scientist extradited from the United States, where he is a protected witness.

“There has never been and will never be any state programs related to doping,” Russian Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko said Friday ahead of the soccer World Cup draw in Moscow.

Mutko, as sports minister in 2014, was implicated in the Pound and McLaren investigations, and also in Rodchenkov’s hand-written diaries which were made available to the IOC.

Oswald’s panel called them “significant” evidence before The New York Times published extracts last week.

Mutko said Friday he met “a number of times” with IOC commissions, and risks being banned from the Olympics. The IOC board blocked his accreditation for Rio last year.

Still, Mutko remains president of Russia’s soccer federation and head of the World Cup organizing committee.

___

RIO PRECEDENT?

Bach’s executive board did not impose a blanket ban on Russia before the Rio Olympics, passing on decision-making power to sports governing bodies. More than 100 Russian athletes were removed from a nearly 400-strong team.

Then, Bach was seen as an ally of Russia and a personal friend of Putin.

The “important difference” this time, Bach said last month, was that accused Russian athletes have now had due legal process and a fair hearing from the IOC.

___

WHO WILL DECIDE

The IOC board will meet at a five-star hotel in Lausanne. It is chaired by Bach and includes two members of the Oswald Commission — Oswald and Juan Antonio Samaranch Jr.

The board also includes a member of the Schmid Commission, Robin Mitchell, and two Americans: Anita De Frantz and Angela Ruggiero, a four-time Olympic hockey medalist.

International Ski Federation president Gian-Franco Kasper represents the winter sports, which mostly oppose a blanket ban.

They will meet with world figure skating champion Yevgenia Medvedeva, who joined a Russian delegation that will argue for a lighter sanction.

Rodchenkov’s lawyer, Jim Walden, told The Associated Press his client hopes “Russia would recognize the severity and confess, and work itself quickly back into the world sports community.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Ripple effects of banning Russia from Olympics

Olympian Derrick Mein ends U.S. men’s trap drought at shotgun worlds

Derrick Mein
Getty
0 Comments

Tokyo Olympian Derrick Mein became the first U.S. male shooter to win a world title in the trap event since 1966, prevailing at the world shotgun championships in Osijek, Croatia, on Wednesday.

Mein, who grew up on a small farm in Southeast Kansas, hunting deer and quail, nearly squandered a place in the final when he missed his last three shots in the semifinal round after hitting his first 22. He rallied in a sudden-death shoot-off for the last spot in the final by hitting all five of his targets.

He hit 33 of 34 targets in the final to win by two over Brit Nathan Hales with one round to spare.

The last U.S. man to win an Olympic trap title was Donald Haldeman in 1976.

Mein, 37, was 24th in his Olympic debut in Tokyo (and placed 13th with Kayle Browning in the mixed-gender team event).

The U.S. swept the Tokyo golds in the other shotgun event — skeet — with Vincent Hancock and Amber English. Browning took silver in women’s trap.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Mo Farah withdraws before London Marathon

Mo Farah
Getty
0 Comments

British track legend Mo Farah withdrew before Sunday’s London Marathon, citing a right hip injury before what would have been his first 26.2-mile race in nearly two years.

Farah, who swept the 2012 and 2016 Olympic track titles at 5000m and 10,000m, said he hoped “to be back out there” next April, when the London Marathon returns to its traditional month after COVID moved it to the fall for three consecutive years. Farah turns 40 on March 23.

“I’ve been training really hard over the past few months and I’d got myself back into good shape and was feeling pretty optimistic about being able to put in a good performance,” in London, Farah said in a press release. “However, over the past 10 days I’ve been feeling pain and tightness in my right hip. I’ve had extensive physio and treatment and done everything I can to be on the start line, but it hasn’t improved enough to compete on Sunday.”

Farah switched from the track to the marathon after the 2017 World Championships and won the 2018 Chicago Marathon in a then-European record time of 2:05:11. Belgium’s Bashir Abdi now holds the record at 2:03:36.

Farah returned to the track in a failed bid to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics, then shifted back to the roads.

Sunday’s London Marathon men’s race is headlined by Ethiopians Kenenisa Bekele and Birhanu Legese, the second- and third-fastest marathoners in history.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!