By Mitch Phillips
LONDON (Reuters) – Athletes from one sport should not be punished for the sins of those from another, the IOC president said on Wednesday, cooling speculation that Russia could be banned from the Olympics altogether for systematic doping.
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is due to issue a report on Monday covering its investigation into allegations that a Russian state-run system helped doped athletes escape detection at the Sochi Winter Olympics of 2014.
Travis Tygart, head of the United States’ Anti-Doping Agency, is one of several people who have said that if the report does confirm the allegations of systematic doping are true then Russia should be banned from the Rio Olympics.
Russia’s track and field athletes are already banned as a result of state-sponsored doping.
However, Thomas Bach, head of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), said: “It is obvious you cannot sanction a badminton player for an infringement of the rules by an official or a lab director at the Winter Games.
“In the same way we would not consider sanctioning all athletes from a particular sport if there is manipulation of the rules by the leadership of a federation.
“What we have to do is take decisions based on facts and to find the right balance between a collective responsibility and individual justice.”
Speaking on a conference call with international news agencies, Bach said he did not want to speculate about what measures could be taken until there is evidence of any proven infringement.
He added that the IOC was aware that several federations had already begun carrying out extra targeted tests on Russian athletes and made sure that their samples are tested outside the country in a bid to build confidence in the results.
One Russian athlete who could be competing in Rio is long jumper Darya Klishina, but it remains unclear which kit she will be wearing.
Due to being based, and tested, in the United States, she was declared eligible by the IAAF, who suggested she be allowed to compete as a neutral athlete.
Bach, however, indicated otherwise.
“She has been declared eligible by her international federation,” he said. “Now it is up to her National Olympic Committee to decide about her entry to the Games and then she would be a member of the Russian team.”
Russia’s weightlifters are also facing a blanket ban from Rio over doping but Bach said the IOC has not yet confirmed a series of failures from re-tests of samples given at the 2008 and 2012 Games.
Belarus and weightlifting superpower Kazakhstan are also banned from Rio, pending IOC confirmation after 17 weightlifters re-tested positive, while Bulgaria is already banned.
“More disciplinary commission hearings are taking place over the next few weeks with priority being given to athletes who may qualify for Rio,” Bach said.
Bach declined to speculate whether the widespread doping could lead to weightlifting being thrown out of the Olympics, other than saying: “All sports are evaluated after each Games and the fight against doping is one of the major criteria.
“You also have to take into consideration that the weightlifting federation do the maximum in the fight against doping.”
Another sport that might be a little nervous about its post-Rio evaluation is golf, back in the Olympics for the first time since 1904.
More than 20 male players, including the top four in the world, have pulled out of Rio, most of them citing fears about the Zika virus, while Rory McIlory said on Tuesday he would not even watch on TV and instead follow “sports that matter.”
“We have to respect the individual decisions, even if they are going contrary to the World Health Organization recommendations,” Bach said.
“On the other hand, we are aware of discussion in the golf community that there are obviously very different reasons for not going to Rio, not related to Zika.
“For the evaluations one of the main categories is of course the question of participation by the best players.”
Bach said he was looking forward to the Rio Games, which start on Aug. 5, and said the IOC had played its part in helping organizers during a difficult period.
“The IOC has been showing solidarity with our Brazilian partners though the financial, social, economic and political crisis in the country,” he said.
“We have made contributions financially, and some federations have taken over some costs normally borne by the organizing committee.
“We have also contributed by reducing costs – cutting capacities, reducing services and in such a way acknowledging that Brazil has been hit by a crisis.
“But we have put a very strong focus on legacy – both in terms of infrastructure and social legacy.
“There will be a Rio and a better Rio after the Games.”
(Editing by Ken Ferris)