Sir John Walker and Dick Quax, two of the country's greatest middle-distance runners, have expressed disappointment in the New Zealand Olympic Committee's decision to back their parent body's stance of accepting Russia into the Rio Games.

At the 1976 Montreal Olympics Walker won the gold medal in the 1500m and Quax earned silver in the 5000m.

In an interview on NewstalkZB, both agreed the NZOC was likely to have had its hand forced politically by the International Olympic Committee.

Host Mark Watson asked Quax whether the NZOC had let New Zealanders down morally.


"I was interested, because before that decision the NZOC came out strongly and said we should kick the Russians out," Quax said. "In the meantime they have changed their minds and agreed with the decision. I think it was the wrong decision by the IOC, and the NZOC was wrong in supporting that.

"It was a dark day for the Olympic movement because [the IOC] had an opportunity to send a strong message that drug taking will not be tolerated. Now they're saying [they'll accept them] if Russia can somehow prove their athletes are clean.

"I'm proud of what track and field [governing body, the IAAF] have done [in banning Russia].

"Cheating or not cheating can be the difference with winning a gold medal," Walker added.

Watson asked Walker if the IOC had missed an opportunity to make a statement.

"Absolutely. Unfortunately the NZOC has to fall in line with the parent body and take that course."

Walker agreed with Watson's sentiment that they were "unlikely to bite the hand that feeds".

On Monday the NZOC endorsed the IOC's stance which abdicated responsibility to international sporting federations over Russia's status:

"The impact of the Russian state-sanctioned doping programme has been widespread and shocking and the IOC has taken the strongest possible measures," a statement read.

"The complexities of the matter cannot be understated and the New Zealand Olympic Committee is satisfied the IOC has considered the issues with the utmost care, balancing individual justice with collective responsibility.

"The New Zealand Olympic Committee underscores the importance of protecting clean athletes and upholding integrity in sport."

Quax was heartened by the power of the anti-doping movement of late.

"In some ways what's happened has been encouraging. People are prepared to come out and say there's a problem. Drug testing is better than it was a few years ago.

"Look at the women's track and field records of the 1970s and 1980s. Those can't be done anymore because they were so chemically-enhanced. The sport has cleaned up a lot in that respect.

"Look at Valerie Adams. She has been the best shot putter in the world for many years. She would've been an also-ran against chemically-enhanced athletes of 1970s and 1980s."

Walker questioned whether Russia would ever be clean of drug-taking.

"I don't think so. They shouldn't [be competing] but a lot of others shouldn't either. A lot are out there doing it."