June 17, 2016
The International Association of Athletics Federations announced today that the Russian track and field team will be banned from the Rio Olympics, which is a historic move from the organization and might finally turn the tide against doping.
The IAAF voted unanimously to ban the Russian team, but individual athletes will still have a way to reach Rio as neutral athletes. Russia was first suspended back in November when a report from the World Anti-Doping Agency alleged state-sponsored cheating.
Today’s move was to confirm that Russia hadn’t done enough to earn reinstatement. The country claimed to have cleaned up its testing program, but a report from WADA showed that Russia was still working to obstruct proper drug-testing and violations of drug-testing policies.
In the WADA report, it claimed that Russian athletes tried to evade testing from February and May. The report also claimed that one female athlete had a fake clean sample hidden “inside her body.”
Russia said it would appeal the decision to the International Olympic Committee. The IOC has scheduled a summit of sports leaders for Tuesday to look at the anti-doping responsibility of the Russian team as a whole but will still allow clean athletes to compete.
Legal challenges to the ban are on the way after the ruling. Two-time Olympic champion pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva told Russian news source TASS that she would file a suit in the Court of Human Rights on the grounds of discrimination.
Some of the cases from Russian athletes could be heard in the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
There are grounds for Russian athletes to compete in the games. Those who have helped lead the fight against doping and athletes like whistleblower Yuliya Stepanova would get strong consideration to enter the games.
Other athletes who can show a strong case that they have been subject to rigorous testing and haven't been tainted by the Russian testing system could also be reinstated for the games. Athletes who entered the games couldn’t compete as Russian but as neutral athletes.
Many sport officials and athletes outside of Russia urged the IAAF to take a strong stance against the Russian team. The USA track and field team supported its ban.
The suspension of the Russian team might finally start to get athletes and the team to strongly consider the cost of doping to win major competitions. This is the strongest rebuke of athletes doping in any sports history.
The 2016 Olympics, or the Games of the XXXI Olympiad, are scheduled to begin on Aug. 5 in Rio de Janeiro.