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IOC’s future at stake as it ponders Russia’s Rio fate

If the International Olympic Committee (IOC) does not ban Russia from the Rio Olympics for a state-supported doping scheme unveiled Monday, the Olympic movement faces possible destruction, global athletes warned.

Canadian law professor Richard McLaren’s investigation report for the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) released Monday in Toronto found Russia’s secret service helped “the state-dictated failsafe system” carried out by the Moscow sports ministry and sprawling into 30 sports over five years.

“The scale of what was happening requires Russia be banned from the Olympics and Paralympics,” said British IOC athletes commission member Adam Pengilly.

When asked if not imposing a ban could mark the beginning of the end of the IOC, former skeleton competitor Pengilly replied, “it certainly has that potential.”

“It’s a huge issue that has been uncovered, and it’s the sort of thing that could have a very big impact on the Olympic movement.”

IOC president Thomas Bach has set up an emergency IOC conference call for Tuesday to talk over the matter in the wake of WADA calling for all Russian competitors and officials to be barred from the Rio Games that begin August 5.

“The world at large look at the IOC as the guardians of the Olympic movement. Not enacting the recommendations from WADA, we risk very much reducing the credibility of the organization and Olympic sport,” said Pengilly.

Around the world, shock and astonishment greeted the news that Russian secret service agents helped make positive samples vanish and unsealed other bottles to replace tainted samples with clean ones as part of the 103-page report.

“It’s a sad day, but an important day,” said Canadian cross country skier and IOC member Beckie Scott, chair of WADA’s athletes committee.

“We felt a little bit vindicated because we have been asking for this since last year. We really hope these recommendations are acted upon.”

New Zealand skeleton racer Ben Sandford noted that the report showed Russian athletes who wanted to compete without doping were likely not to have the best coaches or resources.

“We need to see concrete sentences. They can’t just disappear. There have to be consequences,” Sandford said. “If you wanted to be a clean athlete in Russia, you would probably not be able to compete.”

Zimbabwean swimmer Kirsty Coventry said that if the IOC fails to ban Russia from Rio, “a lot of clean athletes will feel that could happen to them.”

“I hope our leadership will have the will and the strength to take the decision that needs to be taken,” Coventry said. “This is an extremely important time for sport and for the Olympic movement.”

Pengilly said he was uncertain if the IOC had the will to impose an ultimate punishment on Russia even with the evidence uncovered by the McLaren probe.

“I don’t know at this stage. They have to have a strong will for clean sport and not to play politics,” Pengilly said.

“It’s important we have a just outcome. That’s the one the WADA committee recommended. It’s up to the IOC to follow up on that recommendation and not exploit technicalities but enact these sanctions.

“To be credible, we have to do that or young people won’t watch on TV, won’t get involved, won’t believe what they see.”

– Live with the consequences –

The doping scheme was used not only at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics but also when Russia hosted the 2013 World Athletics Championship and World University Games.

“The lengths to which they have gone to subvert the results are deeply shocking,” Sandford said. “It wasn’t one or two sports. It was sports across the board, and athletes across the board.”

Russia’s disgrace, Pengilly said, “has been made clear for the world to see.”

“Russia has to look at themselves. They created this situation. They have to live with the consequences.”

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