IOC weighs Russian Olympic ban, risks provoking Putin

Russia might be banned from competing in the Pyeongchang Olympics, a prospect that President Vladimir Putin has warned would be humiliating for his nation.

The decision will come on Tuesday when the International Olympic Committee executive board meets in Lausanne, less than nine weeks before the games available on Feb. 9 in South Korea.

The 14-member board, which comprises two Americans, has obtained a so-far confidential report from an IOC-appointed panel. This panel was asked to check if Russian state agencies did arrange the doping program used at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

IOC President Thomas Bach, a German attorney long viewed as an ally of Russia, is scheduled to announce the decision at 7:30 p.m. (1830 GMT).

It may not be the last thing, however. Russia can challenge any IOC sanction by appealing to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Here’s a look at the situation, and the possible outcomes:

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PUNISHMENT Choices

— A whole ban on Russia competing in Pyeongchang.

— Many Russian athletes compete, if judged to be clean under long-term doping controls operating to international standards. They’d be classed as impartial athletes competing under the Olympic flag, and could be denied hearing the Russian anthem should they win Olympic gold. Those rules were enforced on Russian athletes in the athletics world championships in August.

Putin has said both of those outcomes would be humiliating, and might provoke a Russian boycott.

— The IOC board could ask the seven regulating bodies for Winter Olympic sports to pick on individual athlete eligibility. That compromise placed on the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

— Impose a fine on the Russian Olympic committee. Tens of millions of dollars could move toward anti-doping work globally.

A financial penalty would be “grossly inappropriate,” according to Joseph de Pencier, chief executive of iNADO, a worldwide group of federal anti-doping agencies.

“It would send precisely the wrong message,” de Pencier stated. “It’s pay to pla”

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TIMELINE

A massive red flag regarding Russian doping went up in July 2013, weeks before Moscow hosted the sports worlds. British newspaper the Mail on Sunday reported wrongdoing by Grigory Rodchenkov and the Moscow lab he led, but its claims were largely ignored.

In December 2014, 10 months following the Sochi Olympics, German community ARD broadcast a film by journalist Hajo Seppelt about extensive doping in Russian sports using footage secretly filmed by whistleblowers.

The World Anti-Doping Agency afterwards appointed an investigation panel chaired by Richard Pound, a long-serving IOC member. That panel included Richard McLaren. Their reports in November 2015 and January 2016 resulted in the suspension of Russia’s sports federation, anti-doping agency, as well as the Moscow laboratory.

The Pound team interviewed Rodchenkov and concluded that he was a crucial part of a conspiracy of providing banned drugs, covering up doping cases, and extorting athletes.

Rodchenkov fled to the United States and detailed in a May 2016 interview with the New York Times how, as laboratory director for the Sochi Games, he aided Russian athletes cheat. He said 15 of Russia’s 33 awards were tainted.

WADA appointed McLaren to confirm the fresh allegations. Within two weeks, he delivered an interim report prior to the Rio Olympics which upheld Rodchenkov’s evidence.

“It can not possibly be carried out by a few rogue people, or even a rogue department of a company,” McLaren said a week of Russia’s doping program.

The IOC then set up two commissions. One chaired by IOC member Denis Oswald confirmed McLaren’s evidence to prosecute cases of Russian athletes from Sochi. A second, now chaired by a former president of Switzerland, Samuel Schmid, was to evaluate if an “institutional conspiracy” existed.

The Oswald judging panel started giving verdicts last month. From Monday, 25 Russians was disqualified from Sochi and banned from the Olympics for life, and 11 awards were stripped. One Russian has been cleared.

Schmid has obtained a 50-page sworn affidavit from Rodchenkov for his report. It was set to be sent to IOC board members on Monday.

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SOCHI PROGRAM

Rodchenkov reported some Russian athletes in the Sochi Olympics used a fast-acting “Duchess” cocktail of performance-enhancing steroids dissolved in alcohol.

Throughout the games, the athletes were shielded by a urine-swapping strategy to replace dirty samples with sterile urine stored months before.

The late-night swaps went through a “mouse hole” to a secured room in the Sochi testing lab.

Secret service agents discovered a way to break into tamper-proof sample bottles and return them with clean pee, Rodchenkov claimed.

Cleaned-up samples could further be tampered with by adding salt to make them more plausible. In cases of several players in Russia’s women’s ice hockey team who didn’t have saved pee, male DNA was discovered in retesting of samples which are routinely stored by the IOC for 10 years in Lausanne.

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RUSSIAN DENIALS

Russia denies a state-sponsored doping program. It blames Rodchenkov, calling him a rogue employee, and desires the scientist extradited from the USA, where he is a protected witness.

“There’s never been and will not be any state programs related to doping,” Russian Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko said on Friday prior to the football World Cup draw in Moscow.

Mutko, as sports ministry in 2014, was implicated in the Pound and McLaren investigations, and in Rodchenkov’s hand-written diaries that were made available to the IOC. Oswald’s panel called them “significant” evidence prior to The New York Times printed extracts last week.

Mutko said on Friday he met “several occasions” with IOC commissions, and risks being banned from the Olympics. The IOC board blocked his certification for Rio this past year.

However, Mutko remains president of Russia’s football federation and head of the World Cup organizing committee.

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RIO PRECEDENT?

Bach’s executive board didn’t impose a blanket ban on Russia prior to the Rio Olympics, passing on conclusion power to sports governing bodies. Over 100 Russian athletes were eliminated from a nearly 400-strong team.

Afterward, Bach was seen as an ally of Russia and a personal friend of Putin.

The “significant difference” this time, Bach said last month, was that accused Russian athletes have had due legal process and a fair hearing from the IOC.

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WHO WILL DECIDE

The IOC board will meet at its temporary headquarters in Lausanne. It’s chaired by Bach and comprises two members of the Oswald Commission — Oswald himself and Juan Antonio Samaranch Jr..

The board also includes a member of the Schmid Commission, Robin Mitchell, and two Americans: Anita De Frantz and Angela Ruggiero, a four-time Olympic hockey medallist .

International Ski Federation president Gian Franco Kasper signifies the winter sports, which largely oppose a blanket ban.

They’ll meet with world figure skating champion Evgenia Medvedeva, who has combined a Russian delegation that will argue for a milder sanction.

Rodchenkov’s attorney, Jim Walden, told The Associated Press his client hopes “Russia would recognize the seriousness and confess, and operate itself quickly back to the world sports community.”

Courtesy: The Globe And Mail