Olympic leaders met Tuesday to consider further measures to crack down on doping ahead of the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in the wake of the ban on Russian track and field athletes.
International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach convened a special Olympic summit to take stock of the International Association of Athletics Federations’ (IAAF) decision to maintain its ban on Russia for the games and to take additional steps to ensure a “level playing field” for all athletes in Rio.
“We want to coordinate our efforts to protect the clean athletes and strengthen the fight against doping, particularly in light of the upcoming Rio Games,” Bach said at the opening of the meeting of 20 sports leaders at a Lausanne hotel. “We will have some interesting debate.”
IAAF President Sebastian Coe was among those attending, along with Russia’s Olympic committee chief Alexander Zhukov.
U.S. Olympic Committee President Larry Probst said he expected the summit to take a hard line.
“I hope all the constituents take this very seriously and move forward pro-actively and aggressively to eliminate the doping problem in the Olympic movement,” Probst said.
The meeting comes four days after the IAAF, track and field’s world governing body, upheld its ban — first imposed in November — on Russia’s team for a “systematic and deeply-rooted culture of doping.”
The IOC said Saturday it “fully respects” the decision and acknowledged that the IAAF has control over the eligibility of track and field athletes for the games.
The statement appeared to rule out any chance of the IOC intervening to overturn or water down the decision.
“The IOC endorsed what the IAAF decided and we will see what additional measures come out of this meeting,” Probst said.
Probst was seated next to Zhukov, who was expected to issue a plea for Russians athletes with a clean doping record to be allowed to compete.
The status of other sports in Russia, as well as other countries and sports with poor doping records, could also come under scrutiny.
The leaders were expected to discuss guidelines for the process, approved by the IAAF, which would allow a small group of Russian athletes who live and undergo rigorous drug-testing outside the country to apply to compete as “neutral” athletes in Rio. It’s unclear what flag, if any, those athletes would compete under.
Also uncertain were the terms of possible participation at the games by Russian whistleblower Yulia Stepanova. The 800-meter runner, who served a two-year ban for blood doping before helping to expose cheating in Russia, was given IAAF dispensation to apply to compete as an independent athlete for her “extraordinary contribution to the fight against doping.”
It’s unlikely the IOC would allow an admitted doper to compete under the Olympic flag, so another solution would have to be found.
The IOC said the meeting would also discuss the situation of countries that are not in compliance with the World Anti-Doping Agency’s global rules.
In addition to Russia, Kenya — home to many of the world’s top distance runners — is currently deemed non-compliant by WADA. Kenya has been hit by dozens of positive drug cases in recent years and has struggled to set up a credible anti-doping system.
The doping crisis extends beyond Russia’s track and field athletes and beyond Russia itself. WADA President Craig Reedie said Monday that the agency has started investigating allegations of doping by the Russian and Chinese swimming teams.
The entire sport of weightlifting, which has a long history of doping, remains under the microscope. The sport has accounted for 20 of the 55 positive findings recorded so far in the IOC’s retesting of samples from the 2008 and 2012 Olympics.
Russian athletes — including 16 from track and field — have provided 22 of the positive samples from the Beijing and London retests.
Still looming heavily over the Russians is an ongoing WADA investigation into allegations made by Moscow’s former drug lab chief, Grigory Rodchenkov, that he was involved in a state-backed conspiracy to dope Russian athletes ahead of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics and swap tainted samples for clean ones during the games.
Richard McLaren, the Canadian lawyer heading the independent probe, said Friday that his preliminary findings backed allegations that the Russian Sports Ministry was involved in manipulating test results before, during and after the IAAF world championships in Moscow in 2013.
McLaren’s final report is due by July 15. If it uncovers further widespread, state-backed cheating in Russia, WADA could push for further action against Russia. The possibility of Russia’s entire team being excluded from the Rio Games has been called the “nuclear option” by former WADA president Dick Pound.