Here’s How the International Olympics Committee Is Handling the Russian Doping Scandal

The International Olympic Committee will weigh other options before considering a blanket ban on Russian athletes.

OLYMPIA, GREECE - MARCH 24:  The Olympic flag flies during the Olympic flame ceremony rehearsal on March 24, 2004 in Olympia, Greece. (Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)
OLYMPIA, GREECE - MARCH 24: The Olympic flag flies during the Olympic flame ceremony rehearsal on March 24, 2004 in Olympia, Greece. (Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)

The 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, will begin in just 17 days, leaving the organizers of the international sporting event very little time to decide what to do about recent allegations that Russian government officials went to tremendous lengths to dope their athletes and then cover it up.

On Tuesday, the day after the World Anti-Doping Agency released a damning report led by Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren — which outlined the Russian government’s systematic efforts to hide their doping from public scrutiny — the International Olympic Committee announced that it would continue to weigh its options before deciding whether to impose a blanket ban on Russian athletes planning to compete in the upcoming games. 

WADA’s executive board recommended a full ban on Russian athletes on Monday, but that option could be obscured by an ongoing appeal by Russian track and field athletes who were already banned from the Summer Games due to an earlier investigation into their use of performance-enhancing drugs.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport, headquartered in Lausanne, Switzerland, is expected to make a decision on their appeal on Thursday — and the IOC said Tuesday that it would take that decision into consideration when determining next steps. But it also said it supports reversing the “presumption of innocence” when it comes to Russian athletes, who will need to prove that they have not doped in order to participate.

“With regard to the participation of Russian athletes in the Olympic Games Rio 2016, the IOC will carefully evaluate the [WADA] report,” the IOC said in a statement released Tuesday. “It will explore the legal options with regard to a collective ban of all Russian athletes for the Olympic Games 2016 versus the right to individual justice.”

The IOC also listed some provisional measures that have been put in place and will be reviewed again at a December meeting. Foreign Policy has condensed and paraphrased that list below:

— The IOC will also put on hold any plans for Olympic-sponsored games in Russia, including the 2019 European Games, which Russia was slated to host.

— The committee will begin disciplinary action against individuals named in Monday’s report and not grant any accreditation for the Rio Games to the Russian Ministry of Sport official or any other individual specifically implicated by Monday’s findings.

— The IOC will launch a “disciplinary commission” chaired by lawyer and former Swiss Olympic rower Denis Oswald. That commission will launch a full inquiry into Russian athletes who participated in the 2014 Winter Olympics, which were hosted in Sochi, Russia. Once that inquiry is complete and a report will be filed, the IOC will determine if sanctions are necessary.

— International Olympic Winter Sports Federations have been requested to pause their preparations for any events slated to be held in Russia, and to look for other organizers. Those federations have also been asked to launch their own inquiries into whether or not doping took place.  

Photo credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images

Siobhán O’Grady is a freelance journalist working across sub-Saharan Africa. She previously worked as a staff writer at Foreign Policy. @siobhan_ogrady

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