IOC President Thomas Bach was in Prague on Thursday for the opening day of the Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) General Assembly. In a wide-ranging speech, the President addressed the protection of clean athletes, good governance and the upcoming Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018, before going on to outline “the many reasons to be confident about where we are, and where we are going”.
On the protection of clean athletes, President Bach outlined the investigations into the failures of the anti-doping system in Russia, in particular with regard to the Olympic Winter Games Sochi 2014.
“This is about the manipulation of samples from the Olympic Winter Games and of the WADA-accredited laboratory; and if these manipulations are proved true then this is a direct attack on the integrity of the Olympic Games and the IOC.”
The IOC President noted that the Oswald Commission, which is dealing with the individual responsibility of athletes - which was not the mandate of Professor McLaren - has published the first two decisions, disqualifying two Russian athletes from the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi and at same time declaring them ineligible for future Games. President Bach said the hearings were ongoing and will “come up with more decisions in the coming days”.
The second Commission, the Schmid Commission, chaired by the former President of Switzerland, is addressing the systematic manipulation of the anti-doping system particularly in regard to Sochi. “I am confident we can take all decisions regarding Russian athletes in December,” said the IOC President.
President Bach also reiterated that the Olympic Movement considers it unacceptable that specific sanctions are already being demanded in the public domain before due process, to which every individual and organisation is entitled, has been followed. “In the Olympic Movement, everybody enjoys the same rights and the same obligations, and everyone deserves the right to a fair procedure,” he said.
The President also described the strengthening of the Pre-Games Testing Programme for next year’s Winter Games with a ”special focus on Russian athletes”. The first 20 in each discipline and event will be considered, along with every athlete where there has been a sudden improvement in performance. He thanked the Winter Sports Federations for their plan to publish their schedules on a monthly basis, including numbers and the nationalities tested.
The progress with the Independent Testing Authority was also highlighted, and the IOC President asked all those present to join the ITA, “so that we can avoid even the perception of a conflict of interests, and we can harmonise better and make the fight against doping even stronger and more effective”.
President Bach went on to talk about the challenges facing the IOC with regard to good governance. No organisation is immune from these, he said. “ Following the reforms of Olympic Agenda 2020, we are in a good position to address all these matters swiftly, even if they are from the past. Based on this new governance model we can move forward with confidence,” he said. “What affects one of us affects all of us,” he added.
The President moved on to the reform of the Olympic Games candidature process; and here he quoted the Mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti, who said recently that:
“We were told all these myths about what this process what supposed to be. I was told this was going to be a very inflexible IOC and what we experienced was a tremendous flexibility as shown today. We were told if we read what’s going on that this process is tainted. It was clean and clear. We were told that it would be very demanding and that you’d have to be super ambitious. Instead it was cooperative and collaborative.”
Turning to the future, the President told the audience that “the stage is set for the best athletes of the world to celebrate the Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang. We cannot ignore the political tension on the peninsula,” he said. “But in all the talks with leaders the Olympic Games were never put in doubt. The Games have to be beyond any politicisation. All have to be equal and all welcome. The Games are a stage for dialogue to build bridges,” he added.
The President then turned to the joint award of the Olympic Games 2024 and 2028. “This world is more fragile than ever, and we can see in many parts of the world crises, tensions, and financial and commercial instability,” said the President. “Enjoying 11 years of stability with two such outstanding Olympic cities and countries is really an achievement we can build on,” he added. “It give us the opportunity to keep changing and to address all our challenges with a very solid foundation. It gives us time to think, time to breathe. But also to enjoy stability in this world is possibly the most valuable currency in the world at this time,” the President concluded.