Volume: 15 Issue: 12
The International Olympic Committee (‘IOC’) announced on 5 December 2017 the suspension of the Russian Olympic Committee (‘ROC’) following the issuance of the Schmid IOC Disciplinary Commission Report, which sought to establish the facts relating to the allegations of state-sponsored doping during the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi detailed in the World Anti-Doping Agency’s Independent Person Report, preventing Russia from competing as a nation in the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games. According to the IOC’s decision individual Russian athletes will have the opportunity to be invited to participate in Pyeongchang 2018 under strict conditions. The IOC’s decision to suspend the ROC with immediate effect, and which will also see the ROC made to reimburse the costs incurred by the IOC in the investigation and to contribute to the establishment of the Independent Testing Authority to the sum of $15 million, “should draw a line under this damaging episode and serve as a catalyst for a more effective anti-doping system,” said IOC President Thomas Bach.
The IOC’s latest decision contrasts with its decision regarding Russian athlete’s participation in the Rio Olympic Games, in which it granted the individual sports federations the responsibility for deciding whether Russian athletes could compete. “It’s difficult to say with real certainty what caused the IOC to rule differently this time - we haven’t seen much of the evidence and Putin (as well as other Government officials) have been surprisingly quiet,” comments Phil Hutchison, Associate at Mills & Reeve. “You’d therefore suspect that the evidence they have is both damning and overwhelming. Doping in sport is in a tough place, and I think the IOC really wanted to draw a line in the sand with this one. There will have been a lot of consideration by the IOC about the Russian athletes who are clean, but it is the need to serve the ‘greater good’ that seems to have heavily influenced the IOC’s decision.”
The IOC has also made the decision to exclude Vitaly Mutko, former Minister for Sport and current Deputy Prime Minister of Russia, from participation in all future Olympic Games. Mutko is currently leading preparations for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. FIFA itself has sought to dispel concerns following the IOC’s decision, releasing a statement announcing that it has ‘taken note of the decision made by the IOC […] This decision has no impact on the preparations for the 2018 FIFA World Cup as we continue to work to deliver the best possible event.’
The IOC will provide the opportunity for individual Russian athletes to be invited to compete in the 2018 Winter Games neutrally, with eligible athletes listed as ‘Olympic Athlete from Russia’ and requiring approval for participation by a panel which will include members of the Pre-Games Testing Task Force. “This is an awkward situation for all stakeholders involved, and in particular the athletes,” adds Gregory Ioannidis, Senior Lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University. “The dream of a lifetime for many of them depends on whether they can prove they are clean, something which offends fairness and justice. It is arbitrary, capricious and prejudicial. Given the administrative burden and the expense required to prove your innocence before you have even violated anything, and simply because you are Russian, many clean Russian athletes might find the ruling quite prohibitive. It is certainly wrong and unfair.”