Last month the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) recommended a full ban on Russian athletes after a series of scandals involving doping cover-ups and suspected state-sponsored programs going back years.
However the International Olympic Committee (IOC) decided to reject WADA’s proposal, bringing down a landslide of criticism on their heads as national anti-doping agencies and former athletes have condemned the decision.
“Many, including clean athletes and whistleblowers, have demonstrated courage and strength in confronting a culture of state-supported doping and corruption within Russia,” said United States Anti-Doping Association chief Travis Tygart.
“Disappointingly, however, in response to the most important moment for clean athletes and the integrity of the Olympic Games, the IOC has refused to take decisive leadership.”
While there are undoubtedly some clean athletes within the Russian Federation who should fairly compete the fact is the level of suspicion is high enough that any medals they win will immediately come under scrutiny. It is an awkward position for the IOC, who have championed inclusiveness. They have already given Russia a ban from track and field competition in Rio and will not allow any Russian to compete who has already served a doping ban.
IOC president Thomas Bach said: “We have set the bar to the limit by establishing a number of very strict criteria which every Russian athlete will have to fulfil if he or she wants to participate in the Olympic Games Rio 2016.
“I think in this way, we have balanced on the one hand, the desire and need for collective responsibility versus the right to individual justice of every individual athlete.”
However those caught in the net of limits include whistleblowers like Yuliya Stepanova will not be allowed to compete even under a neutral flag due to her previous doping ban.
However the presence of the Russian flag at the games sends a message that the doping programs run by Russia do not carry a stern penalty and it may tempt other programs to sprout up throughout the world.