Rio Olympics: What does IOC's decision mean and what problems could arise?

By Ben Bloom

What does the IOC's stance on Russia mean for the Rio Olympics? Photo / AP
What does the IOC's stance on Russia mean for the Rio Olympics? Photo / AP

Breaking down the IOC's latest stance on Russia after the call was made not to enforce a blanket ban. So who is banned? What does this mean?

What decision did the IOC make?

Ignoring the pleas from multiple anti-doping agencies and athlete representative organisations, the IOC decided not to implement a blanket ban on Russian involvement at the Rio Olympics. Instead, it will be up to individual federations to decide the level of Russian participation on a sport-by-sport basis.

The IOC says it has set out "very strict criteria" that every Russian athlete must fulfill if they are to qualify to compete in Rio. The criteria includes never having been sanctioned for a doping violation, previously submitting to "reliable adequate international [anti-doping] tests" and subjecting themselves to a "rigorous additional out-of-competition testing programme".

How many Russians will be allowed to compete in Rio?

This is the big unknown. The number of Russians who will make the cut and compete in Rio now rests on the decisions made by the international federations that govern each individual sport.

While 117 Russian weightlifters provided positive drugs tests (many of which were covered up) between 2012 and 2015, there is no evidence of a single Russian gymnast doing likewise.

Therefore we could see a situation where one sport contains a full team of Russians and another sport has none at all. The IOC ruling is completely open to interpretation by different sports governing bodies.

When will we know how big the Russian team is?

Again, no one really knows. To be in this position less than two weeks out from the start of the Rio Olympics is unprecedented. Every international sports federation will meet in the next few days and make as quick a decision as possible.

The IOC requires them to carry out an "individual analysis" of every Russian athlete's anti-doping record - but the timeframe available puts such lengthy analysis in serious doubt. Once a decision has been made, it will then be put to an expert from the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) for verification.

The entire process appears incredibly lengthy, but time is the one thing that is in incredibly short supply.

Does the IOC decision apply to athletics?

In short: no it does not. But even this answer is fraught with unknowns.

The entire Russian athletics team was banned by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) last November and the exclusion remains in place during the Rio Olympics. The two exemptions to this rule were Florida-based long jumper Darya Klishina and doper-turned-whistleblower 800m runner Yuliya Stepanova, who the IAAF recommended to compete as "neutral athletes".

The IOC has ruled that Stepanova cannot compete because of her previous doping ban, while it has also ruled out the presence of any "neutral athletes" in Rio. What that means for Klishina is unknown.

What problems could the IOC encounter?

Aside from the almost unmanageable timeframe, the IOC could also see some of its judgement challenged on legal grounds. The CAS has already ruled that lifetime bans from the Olympics based on one doping violation are inadmissible, casting major doubt over imposing such a sanction over convicted Russian dopers (but not dopers from any other country).

There are also serious concerns over how rigorous international federations will be in their analysis of every Russian athlete.

- Daily Telegraph UK

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