In a major change in the handling of positive drug tests at the Olympics, the IOC is set to remove itself from the process and have a group of independent sports arbitrators rule on doping cases during the games in Rio de Janeiro, officials familiar with the plans told The Associated Press.
The change is expected to be approved by the International Olympic Committee’s executive board on Tuesday, three officials told the AP. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the plan had not yet been formally adopted.
The move is intended to make the prosecution of doping cases more independent by taking it away from the IOC and putting it in the hands of a special panel of the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Under current rules, doping cases during the Olympics are dealt with by a special IOC disciplinary panel appointed by the IOC president. The panel schedules hearings with athletes who test positive and decides on sanctions. Most athletes who test positive during the Olympics are disqualified, expelled from the games and stripped of any medals.
Under the new proposal, positive cases would go directly to a small group of specially-appointed CAS arbitrators on site. They would hold hearings and issue rulings without IOC involvement.
Any appeal against the arbitrators’ decision would be heard by a separate CAS division, which already handles eligibility and other disputes at the Olympics.
CAS is a Swiss-based body created by the IOC that is considered the highest court in dealing with sports disputes.
The change for the Olympics was studied by CAS and IOC lawyers and came together quickly. It was being submitted for formal approval to the IOC’s ruling executive board later Tuesday.
The move is part of IOC President Thomas Bach’s efforts to make drug-testing and sanctioning more credible by removing any potential conflicts of interest.
Bach has also recommended that, in the future, all doping sanctions be handed down by CAS, rather than by individual sports bodies.
Olympic leaders agreed last year that drug-testing in general – not just at the games – should be taken out of the hands of sports bodies. Bach has proposed that an independent testing agency under WADA control be put into place before the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. WADA is still studying the proposal and how to fund it.
“We are convinced that the adoption of these proposals would lead to a more efficient, more transparent, more streamlined, more cost efficient, more harmonized anti-doping system,” Bach said late last year. “It would better protect the clean athletes and enhance the credibility of sports.”
Also Tuesday, World Anti-Doping Agency president Craig Reedie reported to the IOC board on efforts by Russia and Kenya to comply with global rules at a time when track and field athletes from both countries risk missing the Olympics in August.
The IAAF suspended Russia from global competition in November following a WADA commission report that detailed a vast system of state-sponsored doping and cover-ups. WADA declared Russia’s anti-doping agency non-compliant.
“The ball is in Russia’s court,” Reedie said. “They are aware of the agreements we have on progress that needs to be made. They are very well aware of IAAF criteria for track and field athletes. Work literally goes on every day.”
Asked whether he was confident that Russian athletes would be reinstated in time for Rio, Reedie said: “I am certainly going to try.”
Kenya, meanwhile, has until April 5 to meet WADA requirements or face being declared non-compliant, a step toward a possible ban from the Olympics for its track and field athletes. WADA is demanding that Kenya create and fund a fully-fledged national anti-doping agency.
“They are very well aware of what they need to do,” Reedie said. “They simply need to do it. If they don’t do it, my compliance review committee will take the matter further.”
More than 40 Kenyan athletes have failed drug tests since 2012, and four high-ranking national federation officials are under investigation for doping cover-ups and other alleged wrongdoing.
Reedie reiterated that Brazil’s anti-doping agency has until March 18 to meet WADA guidelines. If it fails, the Rio drug-testing lab would be declared non-compliant, meaning thousands of doping samples during the games would have to be sent out of Brazil for testing, raising major logistical and financial challenges.
“It is up to them to do it,” Reedie said. “It would make life a lot easier if they did.”