Russian Doping Blurs Innocence and Guilt, With Olympics Caught in Middle

Russian Doping Blurs Innocence and Guilt, With Olympics Caught in Middle


The suggested penalties include a ban for Russian teams from international sporting events, including the Olympics and soccer’s World Cup, but they stop short of a blanket ban against individual athletes. Athletes and national antidoping officials, though, say that is exactly what is needed.

“The obvious intent by manipulating the data was to ensure doped athletes were able to escape sanction,” said Travis Tygart, the chief executive of the United States Anti-Doping Agency. “Now we can never know, and all are necessarily part of the cover-up, as sad as it may seem, if there are truly innocent ones. Those in power in Russia threw them all under the bus.”

Last week, Tygart called explicitly for a ban on Russian athletes at the Tokyo Games, saying case-by-case reviews of Russian athletes like the ones that allowed Russians to compete as neutrals in the 2016 Rio Games proved to be “inadequate.” Michael Ask, the chief executive of Denmark’s antidoping agency and the chairman of iNADO, an umbrella group for international antidoping organizations, said he would like to see a blanket ban across all sports for Russian athletes, allowing for only rare exceptions.

“I think we know by now, if we didn’t already know, that everything that has anything to do with that Moscow laboratory cannot be trusted,” Ask said. Only a draconian punishment, he and Tygart said, will protect clean athletes from other countries and force Russia to change its behavior. It is an opinion shared by Olympians like Scott, whose bronze medal in cross-country skiing at the 2002 Olympics was later upgraded to silver, and then to gold, after the Russians who finished ahead of her were disqualified for doping offenses.

One problem is that the International Olympic Committee president, Thomas Bach, disagrees with a broad ban on Russian athletes. Throughout the years of investigations that followed the 2015 revelations of Russia’s extensive doping program, the I.O.C. has taken pains to emphasize that it has no influence over WADA’s decision-making, even though it provides half of the organization’s funding and its members also serve on the antidoping agency’s board. But its opposition to a blanket ban is not new; when WADA’s former president, Craig Reedie, called for such a ban on Russia before the 2016 Rio Games, the proposal was rejected by Bach, who then, as now, said a balance needed to be struck between “individual justice” and “collective punishment.”

Two weeks ago, he repeated his opposition to a blanket ban on Russian athletes, even before the findings of the WADA committee were made public. To Bach, who won a team gold medal in fencing for Germany at the 1976 Montreal Olympics, punishing a generation of athletes for the sins of the past, or of individuals, would be inherently unfair. Only those associated with the yearslong state-backed doping program, he said, should face sporting excommunication.



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