Home Edit Desk A Total Ban on Russia would set a Bad Example

A Total Ban on Russia would set a Bad Example

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Richard McLaren, who was appointed by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) to head an independent investigative team, presented his report in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on July 18, 2016. REUTERS/Peter Power

Russia faces the prospect of missing this year’s Olympics, however the final call is left for the Lausanne based International Olympic Committee (IOC). For some time, Russia has found itself with various doping allegations leading to many of the leading international federations to open inquiries, starting with International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF), who decided to ban all the Russian track and field athletes for the Rio Olympics.

That particular case went to Court of Arbitration of Sport (CAS), who upheld the IAAF’s earlier decision. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), guided by the independent enquiry in the form of McLaren report published a report recently, which revealed a lot of information previously unknown to public on the doping issues involving Russia.

Professor Richard H. McLaren’s most anticipated report have made the headlines, and Olympics is due to start in a matter of days. The doping scandals had to be investigated, and the Professor was roped in as an independent person on May 18 earlier this year by the WADA.

Was two months sufficient to recommend a total ban of Russian athletes for the upcoming Olympics?

Growing up, I was taught a simple moral, which holds good to this day. Don’t misjudge a family because of one wrong person.

In sporting terms, why don’t we segregate athletes into clean and dirty, instead of focussing on countries. Why should a clean athlete be punished just because he was found accidentally in the company of wrong? Will an athlete who has nothing to do with doping suffer because of the nationality, in this case if he/she is a Russian?

“The rights of every individual athlete must be respected. Participation at the Olympic Games is the highest goal of athletes who often sacrifice their entire youth to this aim. The right to participate at the Games cannot be stolen from an athlete, who has duly qualified and has not be found guilty of doping. Blanket bans have never been and will never be just,” said Bruno Grandi, President of the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG).

Importantly, while these governmental, private and sporting organisations in Russia come under scanner, we must not miss the point here that – not all Russian athletes have taken part in the doping process. The ‘blanket ban’, which is being talked about would set a wrong example if IOC were to take that road in the coming days. If McLaren report’ recommendations are implemented, it would do a lot of damage to sports than clean it up.

If one doesn’t like what happened in Sochi, deal with it case by case. Does IOC have time to overturn IAAF’s earlier decision? No.

At the moment, IOC seems to be in a state of shock ever since the McLaren report has come to light – “The findings of the report show a shocking and unprecedented attack on the integrity of sports and on the Olympic Games. Therefore, the IOC will not hesitate to take the toughest sanctions available against any individual or organisation implicated,” IOC President Thomas Bach said.

Since its inception in 1896, the Olympic movement have faced challenges constantly in some form or the other. As human lives evolved, so too have the problems, and sports is another medium where these ailments tend to get exposed.

If the reports are indeed shocking, then IOC has exposed its weakness in tackling some of the important issues. Anti-doping is an evolving science and thereby one can never reach a conclusion whether an athlete is clean or dirty. Quel dommage!

However, one can draw a moral line by merely segregating athletes or dignitaries or organisations involved based on right or wrong. Doping, you are sanctioned. Doping free, why suffer?

On a more practical note, what can IOC do? For starters, they can ban the Russian Olympic Committee. They can refuse accreditations and thereby entries to important delegates from Russia at the Olympics. On a long term basis, IOC can flex its limited muscle to not hold any sports events in Russia.

But…….

The power to ban a sport(s) lies in the hands of individual International Federations (IF’s) and few have been vocal against the idea of ‘blanket’ ban.

We support all these clean athletes and we hope that they will be present in the Olympic Games of Rio de Janeiro 2016. From a Judo perspective, the presence of Russian athletes is very important, as the Russian Judo Federation is a prominent member of the International Judo Federation, with a notable contribution to the development of judo, Russian judo playing a great role in the history of our sport,” said Marius Vizer, the President of the International Judo Federation (IJF).

Will IOC influence the vote of right of individual justice over blanket ban? These are the defining moments of IOC as a decision making body. If you want to play the role of a referee, then it is time to get on the field and take a call instead of relying only on independent reports.