By Gene Cherry
(Reuters) – Russia’s track and field athletes should not be allowed to compete in the this year’s Rio Olympics as the country cannot prove it is compliant with the doping rules, America’s top anti-doping official said on Thursday.
Travis Tygart, chief executive for the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, told Reuters he was particularly concerned about rushing to clear Russia’s track and field federation for the Aug. 5-21 Rio Olympics.
“It’s too late to ensure that those in this state supported doping program are not receiving a benefit from that program,” Tygart told Reuters in a telephone interview.
“Where we are right now. Them still denying, them still attacking the whistleblowers and the truth, with no lab, with no testing a few months before the Games, it’s impossible to correct.”
The Russian federation was temporarily suspended by athletics’ governing body in November after the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) independent commission detailed state-supported doping.
An IAAF task force spent part of this week in Moscow working with Russian officials to find solutions to Russia’s doping problems, and the task force’s leader said the country was making efforts to reform.
But Tygart said things cannot be corrected in time for Rio.
“Even if you hold all those involved accountable, it is impossible to correct the situation to ensure those in the state-supported doping program are not going to violate the rights of the clean athletes,” said Tygart.
Everyone wants universal inclusion of all countries in the Olympics, including a powerful nation such as Russia, the American said.
“But when it has been demonstrated that you have run a state-supported doping program in violation of the Olympic values and spirit, you have gone against the very purpose of what the Olympics is all about,” said Tygart.
His comments followed a damaging report issued on Thursday by a WADA independent commission that concluded former IAAF head Lamine Diack ran a clique that covered up organised doping and blackmailed athletes while senior officials looked the other way.
As a result of the report, Tygart, disagreeing with independent commission chairman Dick Pound, said he did not believe the IAAF was in compliance with the World Anti-Doping Code.
“You can’t possibility be code compliant if your sport leaders extort athletes to cover up doping that allows dirty athletes to compete in the 2012 Olympics,” said Tygart.
“If you can be WADA compliant with that going on, then WADA compliance means nothing. Clean athletes have no hope.”
The American anti-doping leader said he wholeheartedly agreed with Thursday’s WADA report that structural changes must be made by the IAAF so the type of corruption described in the report is not so easily accomplished.
The IAAF and any federation cannot just say the right things, but must actually do it, he said.
“It is not for us to decide who is in charge of the IAAF,” Tygart said. “Whoever it is has to stop trying to managing the bad PR, but instead take action by proving to clean athletes that those involved with this corruption will be held accountable.
“Change or be changed,” he said. “Athletes will revolt, and they should, if their sport leaders don’t use this moment to ensure accountability for all those involved to ensure it will never happen again.”
(Reporting by Gene Cherry in Salvo, North Carolina; Editing by Frank Pingue)