Dilemma for two more IFs as Russian bobsledders and skaters banned by IOC
Four more Russian athletes have been banned from competing in the Olympic Games for life, as a result of allegations of institutional manipulation of doping samples at the Sochi 2014 winter Olympics.
The athletes include Sochi 2014 gold medal-winning bobsledder Aleksandr Zubkov and silver medal-winning speed skater Olga Fatkulina. The other two are bobsledder Olga Stulneva and speed skater Aleksander Rumyantsev.
They bring to 14 the number of athletes sanctioned as a result of decisions based on hearings by a commission led by Denis Oswald, the veteran Swiss International Olympic Committee member, who is probing allegations contained in the independent McLaren report into the scandal, which was commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency.
Zubkov responded to the ban by telling AP that the ruling was the work of “a commission which makes decisions without any basis or proof.”
He added: “The leaders were sitting there and falling asleep behind their desks when the facts and evidence from my side were being read out. They weren’t interested. These acts and decisions were drawn up beforehand, and it’s very plain to see.”The IOC said that more hearings concerning other athletes will be held over the next few weeks.
The other athletes sanctioned so far were a mixture of cross-country skiers and skeleton athletes.
With the start of the winter sports season imminent, the latest sanctions create challenges on how to respond to the IOC’s actions for the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation and the International Skating Union.
An embarrassing and potentially damaging rift has already opened between the IOC and the FIS over their treatment of the six Russian skiers that were banned for life for doping by the IOC, after the international skiing federation declined to follow its lead.
Yesterday, the FIS gave the six skiers provisional leave to compete in its World Cup series, saying that it did not yet have legally-binding proof of their alleged doping.
It said in a statement: “Consequently, the FIS Doping Panel is obliged to wait until the IOC Disciplinary Commission reasoned decisions are submitted with details of the evidence relied on, before it can take further actions with the cases…
“The additional investigations that have been carried out by FIS since December 2016, including examinations of previous testing and interviews with support personnel, have not produced sufficient evidence to open anti-doping rule violation cases.”
A decision on whether to allow the Russian team to participate in next February’s winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang is to be taken by the IOC executive board next month, based on the findings of a separate inquiry commission chaired by Samuel Schmid, the former president of Switzerland.
Earlier this month, Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, waded into the debate, claiming that an announcement by the IOC that four of the six Russian cross-country skiers had been banned from the Olympics for life was part of a US attempt to undermine his country and affect a presidential election in March.
He said: “The controlling stake is located in the United States, because the main companies that order and pay for television rights, the main sponsors, the main advertisement buyers and so forth are located there.
“I have very serious suspicions that this is done to create the necessary environment, to incite discontent among sports fans, athletes, that the state was allegedly involved in these violations and is responsible for them. In response to our alleged interference in their elections, they want to create problems during the election of the president of Russia.”
Putin has repeatedly denied claims in the McLaren report of institutional manipulation of doping samples at the Sochi games. He said: “Never has there been, nor is there now and I hope there never will be a state system of doping support [in sports], which is an allegation that we are accused of.”
However, Putin did acknowledge that “certain instances [of doping abuse] are taking place just like in other countries.”
The winter Olympics held in Sochi in Russia in 2014 have been the subject of a major investigation into an alleged doping programme in the country involving over 1,000 athletes competing in summer, winter and Paralympic sports (including non-Olympic sports).
The athletes were involved in, or benefited from, manipulations to conceal positive tests between 2011 and 2015, according to the McLaren report.