Russian Olympic Ban

In recent years, Russia has faced a world of controversy surrounding doping by their internationally competing athletes. Accusations also extended to bribing of officials in an attempt to cover up many of these scandals.

 

In May 2016, Grigory Rodchenkov, the former Head of Russia’s anti-doping laboratory, detailed to The New York Times the elaborate plan set forth to help Russian athletes who were using performance enhancing substances to evade detection.[1]  Rodchenkov, who was exiled from Russia to the United States, admitted to playing a role in this campaign which spanned 5 years by producing several performance enhancing substances for the athletes and replacing positively-tested urine samples with clean ones.[2]

 

The first to make any statement regarding Rodchenkov’s exposé was the International Association of Athletics Federation Coucnil (IAAF); voting unanimously to place a ban on the Russian Athletics Federation. However, this ban exempts any Russian athletes that live or train outside of Russia, and allows them to compete neutrally. The IAAF is one of 28 sports federations representing their respective sports that compete in the Summer Olympic Games in Rio. Such sports federations serve as governing bodies for all teams globally that participate in their particular sport.

 

After the IAAF released their decision, the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the governing body for the Olympic games deferred all disciplinary decisions to the other 27 individual sports federations, and encouraged them to follow the IAAF’s lead in investigating each of the teams in the sport that they represent, and making a decision of disciplinary action based on their findings. The IOC also entertained the possibility of implementing a blanket ban on the entire Russian Federation following The World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) suggestion. WADA demanded that Russia be banned from the upcoming Rio Olympics set to commence in August 2016 upon releasing a commissioned report that found a majority of urine samples of Russian athletes were manipulated.[3]

 

The Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) along with 68 track and field appealed the IAAF’s decision under the notion that the federation does not have the authority to make such a decision regarding the Olympic Games to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). The CAS serves as the international judicial body of athletes which consists of hundreds of attorneys and arbitrators world wide who are called upon to rule on disputes in sports. The CAS rejected to review the appeal by the ROC and Russian athletes, therefore upholding the ban and affirming the IAAF’s authority to place the ban.

 

The IOC’s committee was scheduled to meet on Sunday to make a final decision on whether to continue to allow the other 27 sports federations to make a ruling based on their investigation of the allegations similar to the IAAF, or to place a blanket ban on the entire Russian Federation which disqualifies all Russian athletes to participate and compete in the Rio Olympics set to begin on August 5th.

 

Placing a blanket ban on the entire Russian Olympic Team was in question concerning it being a reasonable and legal punishment. According to the International Olympic Committee’s Anti-Doping Rules, specifically article 11.2, a blanket ban punishment could be upheld if it is found that more than two members have committed an anti-doping rule violation during the period of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.[4] The IOC committee will have to consider the dilemma of placing an unprecedented collective ban on the athletes, or deciding whether they must take into consideration the rights of each individual athlete to be investigated and allowed to participate if proven to be innocent.

 

The IOC ruled on Sunday that there would be no federation-wide ban and that individual federations should decide if their corresponding Russian teams and athletes should compete. Since then, seventeen additional Russian athletes have been banned from competing in the Rio Olympics. All banned athletes have the option of appealing their ineligibility to participate in the Summer Olympic games to the CAS, such as Russian swimmer Yuliya Efimova who has already started the appeal process.

 

[1] Rebecca R. Ruiz & Michael Schwirtz, Russian Insider Says State-Run Doping Fueled Olympic Gold, NY Times (May 12, 2016), available at http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/13/sports/russia-doping-sochi-olympics-2014.html?_r=0.

[2] See id.

[3] See Russian Doping: Olympic Chiefs To Decide On Sanctions After McLaren Report, BBC (July 19, 2016), available at http://www.bbc.com/sport/36829318.

[4] International Olympic Committee, Anti-Doping Rules Applicable to the Games of the XXXI Olympiad, in Rio de Janeiro, in 2016, Article 11 (Aug. 6, 2016), available at https://www.fei.org/sites/default/files/IOC%20ADR%20-%20Final%20-%20Rio%202016%20-%20%20IOC%20Anti-Doping%20Rules%20-%20ENG.pdf.

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