Russia’s banned track and field athletes are expected to find out on Thursday whether they will be allowed to compete in the Rio Olympics Games, after lodging an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
The country’s participation at any event in Brazil also hangs in the balance, with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) awaiting legal advice on a possible blanket suspension.
An independent report published by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) this week claimed Russia oversaw a state-sponsored doping programme between 2011 and 2015.
The fate of Russia’s 387 competitors hinges on what is decided in a Swiss courtroom.
- What is the court deciding and which court is it?
This is the Court of Arbitration for Sport, sport’s supreme court, and it is hearing an appeal from the Russian Olympic Committee and 68 individual Russian athletes against the International Association of Athletics Federations’ decision to ban the Russian track and field team from global competition and therefore the Olympics.
- Why did the IAAF do that?
The World Anti-Doping Agency asked former president Dick Pound to investigate allegations of widespread doping in Russian athletics.
His report last November resulted in bans for the Russian athletics federation, Russian anti-doping agency and Moscow drug-testing laboratory.
IAAF president Lord Coe came down hard on Russia – a position that was unanimously upheld by his council last month.
- Does that mean that there will be no Russians in the Olympic athletics competition?
No. In an attempt to divert accusations of being “disproportionate”, the IAAF left an opportunity for Russians who could prove they had a spotless anti-doping records, verified by credible agencies.
This effectively meant non-Russian agencies, as an IAAF task force decided that despite its complete overhaul, Russia’s anti-doping system still could not be trusted. This view was supported by UK Anti-Doping, which has been overseeing drug-testing in Russia on behalf of WADA.
The upshot is that only two United States-based Russians have been cleared to compete in Rio’s athletics event – long jumper Darya Klishina and middle-distance runner (and doping whistle-blower) Yuliya Stepanova.
This is why so many Russians immediately appealed against their exclusion – with the ROC joining to make it a class action – and the likes of double Olympic pole vault champion Yelena Isinbayeva have been in court to argue their case.
- Does this mean the rest of the Russian team is okay, then?
No, because this week we have learned from another investigation that almost all Olympic and Paralympic sports in Russia have been part of a huge doping programme “directed, controlled and overseen” by the sports ministry.
This has led to calls from a global alliance of anti-doping agencies, athletes and coaches to throw the entire Russian team out of the Olympics and Paralympics, bar whoever can come through an IAAF-style vetting process.
The IOC has said it is considering its legal options and will take into account Thursday’s CAS ruling.
- So how many of the 387 Russians will be in Rio?
It is still too early to say, but it is unlikely there will be all 387.