By Larry Fine
(Reuters) – Thomas Bach’s response to a report that found Russia concealed hundreds of positive doping tests ahead of the Sochi Winter Games will determine his legacy as International Olympic Committee president, athletes leaders said on Monday.
The IOC promised the “toughest sanctions available” following the release of the report, which revealed evidence of widespread state-sponsored doping by Russian athletes.
IOC Athletes Commission member Adam Pengilly, a British skeleton racer, urged Bach to follow the recommendation of the WADA report and ban all Russian competitors from the Rio Olympics.
“I call upon the leadership of the IOC to follow up on the recommendations and enact it, and not exploit technicalities,” he said in a conference call on Monday featuring members of the WADA Athletes Commission and IOC athletes group.
“Step up and do what’s right.”
Pengilly said the IOC would lose credibility if it failed to do so.
“I think the world at large will look at us,” he said. “The IOC is regarded as the custodians of the Olympic movement.
“Only time will tell. But it may be a significant part of the history of the IOC, and Thomas Bach as president of the IOC and his time as its leader.”
WADA Athletes Commission member Ben Sandford, a New Zealand skeleton racer, said: “That people have gone to such efforts to subvert results and cheat the system is extremely shocking and really saddening.
“It’s a report that really needs to be acted on. It can’t just disappear into the system. There has to be consequences now.”
Sandford said it was unfortunate that some clean Russian athletes might suffer from an Olympic ban but that Russia had to face up to what they had done.
“When you have a state-sponsored system which is running a doping program and also subverting results … that’s enormous. I think Russia has to look at themselves. They are the ones to blame for the situation.
“They created this program and they should have to live with the consequences.”
Hayley Wickenheiser, a Canadian women’s ice hockey player and IOC commission member, said: “This is definitely a sad day for sport but possibly the biggest turning point for sport.”
Pengilly said the IOC Athletes Commission had previously advocated extending a Russia ban beyond the Rio Games to the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang if the Sochi allegations were proven.
“It was supported by over 20 athlete commission chairs,” he added.
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)