GENEVA, March 16, (AP): The IOC board declined to suspend the Kenyan Olympic committee and did not lift an 18-month suspension of Kuwait’s Olympic body. Doping investigator Richard McLaren has been invited for talks with IOC President Thomas Bach amid ongoing tension between Olympic sports bodies and anti-doping officials.
The offer, announced Thursday, to meet in Lausanne comes eight months after McLaren detailed evidence of a Russian doping conspiracy at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. McLaren’s work initially provoked calls for the IOC to ban Russia from the Rio de Janeiro Olympics. A total ban from the 2018 Winter Games is still possible. On Monday in Lausanne, McLaren spoke of his frustration at “nitpicking” criticism of his work, including by the IOC. While McLaren and Russia’s sports minister were keynote speakers at a WADA event in Lausanne this week, IOC leaders have been in South Korea inspecting the next Olympic host city. IOC spokesman Mark Adams said Thursday that Bach wants to meet McLaren and WADA President Craig Reedie to improve relations. “Hopefully (we can) work on a better and tighter cooperation as we move forward on this issue,” Adams said at a news conference on the sidelines of a two-day IOC board meeting in Pyeongchang.
In his letter to McLaren, Bach praised the Canadian lawyer’s work, which revealed “a massive doping program in Russia based on systematic manipulation of anti-doping,” Adams said. “This was supported by the findings of McLaren,” said the IOC spokesman, suggesting it was a “clear” message of appreciation from Bach. The IOC sent a different message last month in an open letter to sports bodies, noting “a lack of consistent evidence” in McLaren’s investigation and suggesting “translations used by (his) team were not adequate.” McLaren told The Associated Press on Monday that questioning translations was “a complete red herring to obfuscate and disguise what is going on.” Any IOC decision on Russia competing in Pyeongchang must await reports from two commissions it set up to analyze McLaren’s work: One will try to verify claims of a Russian statesupported program of doping and cover-ups, and the second will prosecute disciplinary cases against individual athletes.
Adams noted Thursday that McLaren himself says his mandate was not to provide complete evidence against more than 1,000 athletes. “That work beyond the mandate has to be done to a level that can stand scrutiny in a court of law,” Adams said. The IOC clarified its post-McLaren position Thursday by publishing a 12-point list of principles for a stronger and more independent anti-doping system. Ideas to install a neutral WADA president and create an independent global unit to oversee testing athletes are widely shared. Reedie’s term ends in 2019, when WADA plans to host a world conference that can agree on reforms.
However, while WADA wants the power to sanction non-compliant organizations — such as national bodies in a Russia-type investigation — the IOC says the Court of Arbitration for Sport should have that authority. Adams said that proposal to separate powers would avoid WADA being a “judge and jury.” Meanwhile, IOC board member Gian Franco Kasper apologized Thursday for comparing a ban on Russia from the 2018 Olympics to persecution of Jews in Nazi Germany. “It was an inappropriate and insensitive comment,” Kasper, the long-time International Ski Federation president, said in a statement.
The 73-year-old Swiss official had been speaking on the sidelines of an IOC board meeting in 2018 host city Pyeongchang. Kasper compared a potential Olympic ban for Russia — as punishment for state-backed doping and cheating at the 2014 Sochi Games — with indiscriminate persecution by the Nazis. “I apologize unreservedly for any offence I have caused. I am truly sorry,” Kasper said in the statement released by the IOC. The IOC has set up two commissions to verify evidence — detailed in investigations appointed by the World Anti-Doping Agency — of Russia’s doping program before deciding on the country’s Olympic participation. Last July, the IOC board declined to impose a blanket ban on Russian teams and athletes competing at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics. Instead, the decision was left with the sports federations in a chaotic two weeks of legal debate and hearings before the games.