AM Headlings: Sports Arbitration Rules to Overturn IOC Ban on Russians; Putin to Give 2.2 Billion Euro to Iran

August 5, 2016
Thomas Bach, head of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) whose ruling barring Russian athletes found guilty of doping has been overturned by the Court of Arbitration of Sport (CAS). Photo by TASS/Zuma

LIVE UPDATES: The Court of Arbitration of Sport (CAS) has overturned the IOC’s ban on Russian athletes allowing rowers and a swimmer to compete.

Welcome to our column, Russia Update, where we will be closely following day-to-day developments in Russia, including the Russian government’s foreign and domestic policies.

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Sports Arbitration Overrules IOC Decision to Bar Russian Athletes

The Court of Arbitration of Sport (CAS) has ruled to overturn the decision of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to bar certain Russian athletes from the Rio Olympics, Interfax reports. The decision was made on the principle that banning them from this Olympics is “double jeopardy” if their ban involved the previous Olympics.

It was not clear then how they would be punished for past findings of doping.

The decision enabled rowers Anastasiya Karabelshchikova and Ivan Podshivalov, along with the swimmer Yuliya Yefimova, to participate in Rio.

Under political pressure from Russia, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) decided not to make a blanket ban on Russia following doping scandals of at least 250 athletes. Instead, it decided to allow the federation for each sport, from gymnastics to rowing to make the decision.

The rowing federation had ruled to ban Russia’s rowers over their doping in the past.

Yesterday August 4, the IOC ruled that more than 100 Russian athletes were disqualified from participation for doping, and 271 were approved — 118 less than Russian had hoped would compete, the New York Times reported.

But the barring of the athletes has now been called into question by the CAS ruling on some of them, as well as by the call to quickly review the rest of the cases. 

Russia has been plagued with serious doping scandals all year, which reached a culmination in the IOC’s decision to ban some athletes. While the evidence was considerable, Russia opted to claim the decision was somehow induced by Western countries’ antipathy to Russia.

Jokes have abounded about athletes taking meldonium – but Russian social media in the past week has been swamped with a joke about an Italian swimmer, not the Russian swimmer Yefimova who was disqualified and now reinstated. Her name, transliterated, sounds like a Russian name and that has added to the confusion — possibly deliberate.

Translation: The captain of the Italian water polo team Elisa Casanova (left) does not eat meldonium. She eats those who eat meldonium.

Meldonium is the substance that Maria Sharipova and others were found to be taking.

On August 4, the investigative journalism site ProPublica published an exclusive interview by David Epstein with Jack Robertson, the former chief investigator of the World Anti-Doping agency. He said his efforts to investigate state-sponsored doping in Russia were repeatedly thwarted.

Jack Robertson, who left the agency in January, said he was forced to leak information to the media in order to pressure WADA president Sir Craig Reedie to act and, even then, he says, the agency sat on credible allegations that suggested Russian doping extended far beyond track and field.

Ultimately, Robertson says, the investigation delays have allowed the president of the International Olympic Committee — who has reportedly been supported by Vladimir Putin — to claim that the committee didn’t have enough time to determine whether it should ban all Russian teams. The result is that Russia may still have one of the largest delegations in Rio.

Robertson called Putin and Reedie “the unlikely power couple.” WADA subsequently directly contradicted Robertson’s statements:

Q: I asked WADA to respond to your statement that it had waited. Reedie replied in an email: “It was only when CBS 60 Minutes and the New York Times, on 8 and 12 May 2016 respectively, published the allegations from the former director of the Moscow and Sochi laboratories, Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, that WADA had concrete evidence suggesting Russian state involvement that could be investigated by initiating the McLaren Investigation, which we did immediately.” Seems reasonable.

A: How investigations work is that you receive allegations and then you investigate and search for evidence. You don’t wait for evidence to magically show up on its own, or in the media. But the truth of the matter is, we did have evidence, because Rodchenkov confessed to sample switching in the Moscow laboratory to cover-up positive tests of their athletes, to the WADA science director. He promptly made that known to me, and I had him put these admissions into a written statement, for the purpose of the first independent commission. So the independent commission was aware of this during the course of the investigation.

As the Daily Beast has reported, the Federal Security Service, Russia’s domestic intelligence agency, has been responsible for the manipulations of urine samples; in a tacit acknowledgement that there has been a problem, President Vladimir Putin recently moved anti-doping inspection from the Sports Ministry to the Ministry of Health.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

AM News: Sports Arbitration Rules to Overturn IOC Ban on Russians; Putin to Give 2.2 Billion Euro to Iran

The ruble is trading at 65.30 to the dollar and 72.18 to the euro. Brent crude is at $43.96.

The following headlines have been taken from RBC, Interfax, Nazaccent, BBC, Open Russia.

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— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick