Lausanne-Russian athletes were offered a lifeline on Sunday after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) rejected clarion calls for Russia to be banned from next month’s Rio Olympics over the nation’s doping record.
The IOC ruling states that decisions on individual competitors will be left to the international sports federations.
It came less than two weeks before the Rio Games open on Aug. 5.
The ruling also follows the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) call for a blanket ban in response to the independent McLaren report that found evidence of state-sponsored doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
Federations “should carry out an individual analysis of each athlete’s anti-doping record, taking into account only reliable adequate international tests, and the specificities of the athlete’s sport and its rules, in order to ensure a level playing field,” the IOC said in a statement.
“I think in this way, we have balanced on the one hand, the desire and need for collective responsibility versus the right to individual justice of every individual athlete,” IOC President Thomas Bach said on a conference call.
“In this way we are protecting the clean athletes because of the high criteria we set. This may not please everybody, but this result is one which is respecting the rules of justice and all the clean athletes all over the world.”
For individuals to be allowed to compete at Rio they must have a spotless international record on drug testing, the IOC said, adding athletes who have been sanctioned in the past for doping will not be eligible.
That would dash the hopes of middle-distance runner Yulia Stepanova, the whistleblower and former drug cheat whose initial evidence led to one of the biggest doping scandals in decades.
Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko said on Sunday that the European Olympic Committees “was pleased to note that the McLaren report did not implicate the ROC as an institution, and this was clearly a key consideration in today’s IOC Executive Board decision.”
“Today’s decision is not the end of the affair, however. There is still much work to be done. The ROC’s commitment to ensuring Russia fields teams of clean athletes now and in the future is welcome,” he added.