The cases of the cleared athletes are very likely fuel more resentment over the media campaign against Russian participation in international sporting events. The media was so successful in destroying in what amounted to defensible cases put forward by the athletes, that officials have clearly been faced with a dilemma.
“The available evidence was insufficient to support the assertion of an antidoping rule violation against these 95 athletes,” Olivier Niggli, the agency’s director general, noted in the internal report obtained by The New York Times.
Niggli told the NYT in an interview: “Years after the fact, the remaining evidence is often very limited.” Richard McLaren, the investigator who had identified some thousand athletes, has also suggested that many cases would be hard to prosecute.
“The different types of evidence provided with respect to any individual athlete are like strands in a cable,” McLaren wrote in his report last December. It would be up to the sports authorities “to determine whether the provided strands of evidence, standing alone or together, build a sufficiently strong cable,” signalling the lack of evidence for the case against Russia.
After McLaren’s reports singled out Russia, the sanctioning of individual athletes were left to governing bodies for each sport. The World Anti-Doping Agency would then review the decisions made by various sports federations and determine whether they should be approved or challenged. That process has yielded the 95 cases that the anti-doping agency has agreed to close.
Anti-doping officials have expressed concern about the possibility that sporting bodies in other countries might be even more inclined to exonerate their own athletes. “We have to accept the fact that McLaren’s purpose was to prove a system, not individual violations,” Niggli told the NYT.
The regulator’s exoneration of 95 athletes is a vindication of Russia’s position, whose officials have denied any role in cheating.
Three Russian cyclists have taken now legal action against the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and Canadian doping investigator Dr Richard McLaren. Kirill Sveshnikov, Dmitry Strakhov and Dmitry Sokolov were unable to compete at the Rio 2016 Olympics after Russian athletes faced a blanket ban.
The cyclists maintain that they have “suffered great reputational harm” and have filed a lawsuit in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, claiming damages.
“Together, WADA and Dr Richard McLaren prevented us from reaching our lifelong goal of participating in the Rio Olympics, the pinnacle of our sport, and we allege that they wrongly associated our names with cheaters and doping,” said Sveshnikov.
While the IOC has opened disciplinary proceedings against certain Russian Olympians, no medals from the 2014 Games in Sochi, Russia, have been rescinded.
In September, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) will carry out a full audit of RUSADA, the Russian anti-doping body, and the results of the audit will be presented to the Foundation Board members.
Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister for Sports, Tourism and Youth Policy Vitaly Mutko said in an interview with TASS, the restoration of RUSADA’s membership was included in the agenda of the September meeting of the WADA Executive Committee.
WADA had suspended RUSADA in the autumn of 2015 following an investigation in regard to the activities of RUSADA, the All-Russia Athletics Federation (ARAF), the Moscow anti-doping laboratory and the Russian Sports Ministry.
The IOC has meanwhile entrusted the 2024 Summer Olympic Games to Paris and the 2028 Summer Olympic Games, to Los Angeles.
It held its 131st cession in Lima on Wednesday where the winning cities were considered, after a trilateral agreement with the bidding committees of these cities had been signed. The next Summer Olympic Games will take place in Tokyo in 2020.