Today the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Executive Board announced the suspension of the Russian National Olympic Committee, while also confirming that it will create a path for clean Russian athletes to compete at the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Games under the Olympic flag.
The decision was made after reviewing and discussing the full results of the Schmid Report, a report that has been meticulously compiled over 17 months to fully investigate every angle of the allegations surrounding the systemic doping of Russian athletes. Due to timing, the opportunity to conduct such comprehensive report and carry out the required due process was not available to the IOC prior to the Olympic Games Rio 2016.
The conclusions of the report, on both factual and legal aspects, confirmed the systemic manipulation of the anti-doping rules and system in Russia, through the Disappearing Positive Methodology and during the Olympic Winter Games Sochi 2014, as well as the various levels of administrative, legal and contractual responsibility, resulting from the failure to respect the respective obligations of the various entities involved.
Need for time Emphasised
Talking after the IOC Executive Board decision, Angela Ruggiero, IOC Athletes’ Commission (AC) Chair was keen to emphasise the need for time to ensure the correct conclusion as well endorse the findings.
“I have been continually impressed by the thoroughness and professionalism of the process of Mr Schmid that led to today’s sanction. We [the IOC AC] have been working closely with the global community of athletes’ commissions, and together, our views have been considered every step of the way in the decision-making process.”
“It has always been our wish that clean athletes are not denied the opportunity to compete at the pinnacle of their career, whilst also ensuring that every competitor is confident that they are competing on a level playing field. We have always been clear that those responsible should be held accountable for their actions.”
Athletes ever-present throughout the decision-making process
From Ruggiero’s (USA, Ice Hockey) representation on the IOC Executive Board, to Tony Estanguet’s (FRA, Canoe) position on the Oswald Commission and Yang Yang (CHN, Speed Skating) on the Schmid Commission, athletes have been ever-present throughout the decision-making processes that have led to today’s sanction.
Drawing similarities between the tough and long journey of an athlete to reach the top and the procedures to reach today’s sanction, Ruggiero continued.
“As athletes, we live our lives through sport; and often to get the best out of every performance we must step back, disconnect our emotions and take a hard look at the data, the environment around us and all factors that have the potential to affect our performance.
“Since the allegations first arose we have had to adopt this same approach to ensure the right outcome, protecting clean athletes. It may have taken a long time, but it was required to reach the right decision. We have now taken necessary actions towards any person or organisations that took part in this violation of clean sport, including athletes and their entourage.
The importance of athletes to the decision-making process was further highlighted when the IOC AC hosted a phone conference, swiftly after the announcements of the sanctions, between the IOC President, AC Chair, Director General and Sports Director with members of athletes’ commissions from the 25 most successful NOCs (based on results from the Sochi Games), Continental Associations, Winter International Federations, WADA and the World Olympians Association.
Also confirmed at the Executive Board were the next steps of the medal reallocation process; with athletes who have missed the opportunity to receive their medal at the Games, due to retrospective disqualifications, being provided a selection of options on how they can be presented their medal.
“Reallocation of medals is an important step in rewarding those athletes that have competed clean and had their special moment taken away through no fault of their own,” said Ruggiero.
“We must do everything we can to make up for this stolen moment. Today’s decision reflects the importance of supporting the clean athlete to the entire Olympic Movement.
Importance of empowered athletes voice
Today’s decisions once again highlight the contribution and importance of the IOC Athletes’ Commission to the decision-making processes within the Olympic Movement. With up to 23 members, the majority of whom are elected by fellow Olympic athletes during the Games, they serve as the link between the athletes and the IOC.