A day after the World Anti-Doping Agency dismissed 95 cases of suspected Russian doping, citing lack of evidence, 16 national anti-doping organizations, including the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, demanded Russia still be banned from next year’s Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea.
“A country’s sport leaders and organizations should not be given credentials to the Olympics when they intentionally violate the rules and rob clean athletes. This is especially unfair when athletes are punished when they violate the rules,” the 17 organizations, collectively called the National Anti-Doping Organization, said Thursday in a statement following two days of meetings in Colorado.
“The IOC needs to stop kicking the can down the road and immediately issue meaningful consequences,” NADO’s statement continued. “The failure to expeditiously investigate individual Russian athlete doping poses a clear and present danger for clean athletes worldwide and at the 2018 Winter Games. We have serious doubts that the 2018 Games will be clean due to the incomplete investigation of massive evidence of individual doping by Russians athletes at the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games and given the inadequate testing evidence of Russian athletes over the past four years.”
NADO, which consists of anti-doping leaders from the United States, Austria, Australia, Britain, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore and Sweden, as well as the Institute of National Anti-Doping Organization, said it supported allowing Russian athletes to compete under a neutral flag if they could be properly cleared. But the organization underlined Russia as a whole should remain banned until the findings of the McLaren report could be thoroughly investigated by WADA. NADO leaders also said Russia shouldn’t be cleared to participate unless the country either proved it could refute or took full responsibility for the report’s findings, which allege Russia ran a state-sponsored doping program for years.
In March, Russian President Vladimir Putin continued to deny the allegations, stating on national television (via NBC News), “We never had, don’t have, and I hope won’t have a state-sponsored doping program.”
Putin added: “On the contrary, there will only be a fight against doping.”
According to NADO leaders, however, Russia has yet to turn over key electronic data that might shed more light on the case, including servers, testing instrument data files, computer files, and email and text message archives from 2011 to 2016, the time span the McLaren report said the alleged state-sponsored program operated.
“A full account and justice for clean athletes cannot be achieved without this information,” NADO leaders said Thursday. “The mishandling of this Russia doping crisis has left the athletes of the world wondering if global anti-doping regulations have teeth and whether their fundamental right to clean sport matters.”
The International Olympic Committee gets final say in whether Russia or individual Russian athletes get to participate, just as it did last summer before the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Olympic leaders are expected to take their cues from WADA, which is in charge of investigating Russian doping cases.
“My guess — and it is an informed guess — is that there will be a very, very intense pre-Games testing program before PyeongChang,” WADA President Sir Craig Reedie said in March (via the Guardian). “And the IOC, I’m sure, will be hugely supportive of that and that will allow them to make a reasoned decision.”
Speaking on Friday, however, Russian Olympic Committee President Alexander Zhukov rejected the idea that they’d be banned from the Olympics next year.
He answered, “Yes, sure,” when asked whether Russia would field a team in PyeongChang, noting (via the BBC), “It’s very important that [NADO’s position is] not the position of WADA.”
Zhukov said it’s also not the position of IOC, of which he said several members had already criticized NADO’s stance.
The 2018 Winter Olympics are set to kick off on Feb. 9 and run through Feb. 25.
Correction notice: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the number of NADO organizations that backed the ban. There are 17, including the USADA.