Rio Olympics: UCI makes decision on Russians to compete

by Shane Stokes


The UCI has decided to go with the IOC rather that WADA in relation to permitting Russian riders to compete in the Olympic Games, shying away from the blanket ban that the latter advocated earlier this month.

On July 18 WADA commented on the independent McLaren investigation which looked into claims of widespread doping by Russian sportspeople and complicity by the country’s government and sporting federations.

WADA said that Russian athletes had cheated in at least 30 sports, including cycling, and advocated banning the country from Rio 2016.

This stance was echoed by U.S. Anti-Doping Agency CEO Travis Tygart, who also said that the athletes should not be permitted to compete in the Games.

“The McLaren Report has concluded, beyond a reasonable doubt, a mind-blowing level of corruption within both Russian sport and government,” he said. “We must come together as an international community – comprised of those who truly believe in the spirit of Olympism – to ensure this unprecedented level of criminality never again threatens the sports we cherish.”

However the IOC failed to take the same line, saying that a blanket ban across all sports was not justified. It said that each international sporting federation should make its own call on the matter.

The UCI has now done that, and said that almost a dozen Russians will be given a green light to compete in Rio. Six others look set to miss the Games.

“Following the publication of the McLaren Investigation Report, the UCI immediately sought information from the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) related to the sport of cycling and was informed that three riders named by the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) to compete in Rio 2016 were potentially implicated,” it said in a statement.

“The UCI, through the Cycling Anti-Doping Foundation (CADF), is in the process of identifying relevant rider samples and is in close dialogue with WADA to move forward with these cases immediately. It has also passed the names of these three athletes to the IOC in the context of its Executive Board decision.

“Three other riders who have previously been sanctioned for Anti-Doping Rule Violations have been withdrawn by the ROC.”

None of the riders have yet been identified. Ditto for almost a dozen others who the UCI indicates are set to travel to the Olympics.

“The CADF has carried out a careful assessment on the other 11 riders named by the ROC to participate in Rio 2016 cycling events. After thorough analysis of the testing history of these riders and considering the scrutiny currently being applied to all of them, the UCI and CADF believe that this is sufficient for these athletes to meet the relevant requirement of the decision of the IOC Executive Board.”

It added that the examination has not considered tests conducted by the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA), presumably because there is doubt about the accuracy of these tests.

Given the questions raised by investigations in recent months, the decision to allow 11 Russians to compete in the Games will lead to much debate.

The UCI said that those riders will have already faced increased scrutiny.

“It is also important to stress that since the publication of the Independent Commission Report in November 2015, the UCI requested that the CADF intensify testing of Russian cyclists – and this level of heightened testing will continue before, during and after Rio 2016,” it said.

“The UCI is absolutely committed to protecting the rights of clean athletes at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games and beyond.”

It is not clear who will be on the Russian team for the Games. Tour de France stage winner Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha) said this month that he wanted to race in Rio. However the IOC has said that any Russians who were previously banned for doping would not be eligible to compete.

This suggests that Zakarin and Olga Zabelinskaya (BePink), who was previously banned for stimulant octopamine, are two of the three Russians who are blocked from competing.

As for the other three currently under scrutiny, their names may well emerge over time.

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