Relief for Russia after the IOC declined to impose a blanket ban on its competitors at the Rio Games over state-run doping, but the decision met fierce criticism elsewhere with Olympic chiefs branded “spineless”.
In one of the most momentous moves in its long, chequered history, the International Olympic Committee said Sunday it was up to each international sports federation to decide if Russians could take part in Rio. The federations now face a race against the clock with the opening ceremony only 11 days away, global sport sharply divided and some Russian competitors already in Brazil.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called the IOC decision “positive”. “We welcome the main decision, which allows so-called clean athletes to take part in the Olympic Games,” Peskov told reporters. Russian sport and the Kremlin have been rocked by doping scandals that saw its track and field team banned from competition, including Rio, and sparked calls led by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) for all Russians to be barred until they cleaned up.
Dmitry Svishchev, who heads the lower house of Russian parliament’s sports and physical culture committee, told AFP the IOC decision was “not bad”. But he railed against the fact that Russian athletes who served doping bans in the past would be barred from Rio under the new IOC criteria, especially when drug cheats from other countries who had served their suspensions were allowed to go.
“You can’t punish twice for the same thing,” Svishchev said. The head of the Russian Olympic Committee, Alexander Zhukov, said that more than eight Russian competitors— excluding track and field athletes—did not satisfy the IOC criteria to compete in Rio, acknowledging this figure had grown in the course of the day.
“We will have the full information soon,” Zhukov said. “I said eight, but actually it has now become clear that there are more.” Russia’s gymnastics team—the first group of Russian athletes to arrive in Rio—are already training in Brazil, coach Valentina Rodionenko told R-Sport news agency, saying that “the worst is behind us”. Most Russian competitors will fly out on Thursday, R-Sport reported, although it remains to be seen how many will actually take part in the Games.