'Cowardly' Russia call keeps doping alive

Dec 28, 2017 - 4:14 AM The International Olympic Committee's "cowardly" compromise on Russian athletes at the Winter Olympics will embolden the country's doping regime and forever tarnish the movement, WADA's former chief investigator says.

Jack Robertson, the man who led WADA's probe into Russia's institutional doping, called for new leadership at the IOC after president Thomas Bach imposed what he condemned as "a non-punitive punishment meant to save face while protecting the IOC's and Russia's commercial and political interests".

Earlier this month, the IOC banned Russia from contesting February's Pyeongchang Games over a "systematic manipulation of the anti-doping rules".

However, it will allow athletes who can prove they are clean to compete as an "Olympic Athlete from Russia (OAR)" without the country's national flag or anthem.

In an opinion piece in the New York Times, Robertson described the lifeline as a "complete farce", lamenting "this punishment ensures that clean athletes will face dirty ones" and predicting more medals would have to be stripped retrospectively.

Instead of deterring drug takers, he said the punishment served only to discourage whistleblowers such as Yuliya Stepanova and Vitaly Stepanov, who blew open an operation engulfing the majority of national-level athletes and backed by everyone from Russia's doping-control officers to its secret police.

Robertson revealed he leaked the pair's testimonies so public pressure would force WADA to provide his investigation with previously withheld resources.

"Despite all of that, I am less disappointed with Russian athletes than with my own professional peers, key figures in global anti-doping who have supported the IOC's 'neutrality' decision," Robertson wrote.

"I have heard the decision called a 'moral victory'. In my experience, a moral victory is only claimed in a losing effort.

"Let me be clear, there is nothing to be either praised or defended in this decision, which pits clean athletes and against doped ones."

The IOC's decision to hand a life Olympics ban Russia's deputy prime minister Vitaly Mutko marked the first time the global body had publicly accepted the state's involvement.

But Robertson said the fact the IOC knows Russia remains unco-operative with WADA proves Bach and his leadership circle have not gone far enough.

He also feared for future Russian athletes caught up in forced doping due to the IOC's lack of protection through sufficient action.

"The IOC reached a compromised decision, and the Olympic Charter is forever tarnished," Robertson wrote.

"The world now knows how low the bar is.

"Any future punishment of less powerful countries will be seen for what it is, a double standard, with the IOC picking and choosing which rules to follow and to whom they apply."

"Looking ahead to the 2018 Games, whether or not more wrongdoing is immediately uncovered in Pyeongchang, it will be taking place.

"Spectators and athletes should consider the final medal count in February as a temporary placeholder, to be adjusted over the next decade as athletes are retroactively disqualified."

Source: AAP

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