The entire Russian Olympic team will today be banned from competing at the Rio Games next month, The Mail on Sunday understands.
According to well-placed sources, the International Olympic Committee will punish all 387 Russian sportsmen and women in the strongest possible way after revelations of their country’s state-sponsored doping programme shocked the world.
The country’s corrupt track and field stars have already been banned from the Games, and last week lost a desperate legal challenge to overturn that decision.
But today’s ruling – the most momentous in Olympic history – will see Russia’s medal hopes in cycling, judo, wrestling and all other disciplines excluded from competition in the wake of the scandal.
The controversy involved President Vladimir Putin’s sports ministry handing out cocktails of steroids and covering up tainted urine samples ahead of the 2012 London Olympics.
As most know, the upcoming Rio Games have been fraught with problems. Real problems.
Up until now, it’s only the Russian track and field team that has been banned. Russian officials appealed that ban and the appeal was rejected.
The Daily Mail seems confident in its sources that the ban will happen, but USA Today isn’t quite as convinced, and seems to think this decision will be punted to each sport’s International Federation:
In statement, IOC president Thomas Bach said the IOC “will not hesitate to take the toughest sanctions available” against individuals and organizations implicated in the report.
What that looks like remains anyone’s guess, but a few seem to be on the table.
The first, and probably least likely, is to do nothing. The IOC is reviewing the McLaren report, but its conclusions point to Russia subverting the anti-doping system to allow its athletes to cheat at the Sochi Olympics.
For months, anti-doping leaders and athletes have called for a ban and those only intensified this week. To many, the decision is seen as a referendum on whether the IOC has the zero-tolerance approach to doping that Bach has professed it does.
Another route the IOC could pursue would be to delegate deciding the eligibility of Russian athletes to their international sport federations (IFs).
That could set up a system similar to what the IAAF passed last month. In extending its ban of Russia, the federation created a rule change allowing athletes to seek exceptional eligibility by demonstrating that they had been subject to an effective anti-doping system outside of Russia and that they had not been tainted by the Russian system.
This may be a good time to remember that the Rio committee has some problems regarding drug testing that are closer to home.
At this point, there has been such a preponderance of negative news leading up to these games that expectations have probably been sufficiently lowered to make them seem successful no matter what.