Russian riders’ Rio places hang in the balance

  • A decision on whether all Russian athletes – including riders – will be banned from taking part in next month’s Olympic Games has been postponed while “legal options” are considered.

    A call for a ban was made by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) following the publication of an investigation into doping practices in the country on Monday (18 July).

    Russia currently has two individual dressage riders and an eventing team entered for the Olympics and three riders entered for the Paralympics.

    The main equestrian sports of dressage, showjumping and eventing were not reviewed in the report, but modern pentathlon was mentioned.

    However, if Russia is thrown out of the Games it could affect all of its qualified riders.

    Heading the Russian equestrian team is world number five dressage combination Inessa Merkulova and Mister X. There is no evidence to suggest Inessa or any other of her team members are involved in the scandal.

    The “shocking” McLaren Report, commissioned by WADA, found “unprecedented levels of doping and subversion” in Russia.

    The international Olympic committee (IOC) executive board yesterday decided to “explore the legal options” with regard to a collective ban of all Russian athletes for the 2016 Olympics.

    “This is on the one hand between a collective ban for all Russian athletes and on the other hand, the natural rights to individual justice for every clean athlete in the world,” said IOC president Thomas Bach.

    The IOC plans to wait and consider the decision of the Court of Arbitration for Sport on the outcome of a different Russian doping appeal tomorrow (21 July) before a decision is made.

    But the IOC executive board did make several immediate decisions yesterday, including denying Rio 2016 accreditation to any Russian ministry of sport officials or anyone implicated in the report.

    What is the report about?

    The McLaren report is an investigation into allegations of doping in Russian sport at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics and took Professor Richard McLaren and his team 57 days to complete.

    Although its focus was looking into allegations of state-run doping at Sochi 2014, it also looked at the wider picture of what was happening across a range of sports and samples taken and tested at the Moscow Laboratory.

    “Shamefully, the McLaren Report corroborates the allegations, exposing a modus operandi of serious manipulation of the doping control process in the satellite laboratory set up in Sochi for the 2014 Games; and, the Moscow laboratory since 2011 and after the Sochi Games,” said WADA president, Sir Craig Reedie.

    Mr Bach added the IOC “will not hesitate” to take “the toughest sanctions available” against any individual or organisation implicated.

    “The findings of the report show a shocking and unprecedented attack on the integrity of sport and on the Olympic Games,” he said.

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    Meanwhile, WADA’s athlete committee described the findings as “truly shocking” and backed calls for a Russian ban at Rio.

    “All athletes have a right to clean sport and a right to compete clean,” added the statement.

    “Now is the time for sporting organisations to stand up against doping and affirm in the most robust ways possible their commitment to protecting clean athletes and zero tolerance.

    “This can only be achieved through the collective sanctioning (of athletes, officials and organisations) that has been recommended.”

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