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Volume 7 No. 83
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IOC To Decide On Russia's Status For PyeongChang Games Tuesday

Under "huge pressure from all sides," the IOC will decide on Tuesday whether to ban Russia from next year's Winter Olympics over "alleged institutionalized doping," according to Brian Homewood of REUTERS. Anti-doping agencies and "many athletes want the country to be completely excluded" from PyeongChang but Russia has "vehemently denied state involvement and complained of political manipulation." Faced with the same decision ahead of the Rio 2016 Games, the IOC "stopped short of imposing a blanket ban" and instead left decisions on individual athletes' participation to the respective sports federations. The options facing the 15-member IOC Exec Board, which meets on Tuesday, include a blanket ban on Russia, allowing Russian athletes to compete as neutrals or deferring the decision to sports federations. Sports marketing exec Patrick Nally said, "The IOC has a delicate decision to make. On the one hand it needs to show WADA and the world's media that it is chastising Russia but at the same time it needs to be temperate in its approach. ... Banning them outright will, I think, be too negative a step" (REUTERS, 12/4). The BBC's Dan Roan reported for an Olympic "powerhouse nation" to be cast as an int'l "sporting pariah" would be unprecedented. But the signs point to IOC President Thomas Bach "doing precisely that." The German and his board will spend Tuesday "poring over the findings and recommendations of a 16-month investigation" led by former Swiss President Samuel Schmid. Despite "initial fears that Bach's close relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin" -- and a lack of proof that would satisfy legal requirements -- may mean the IOC "could try to swerve a ban and resort to a hefty fine" as an alternative means of punishing Russia, matters "first started to look bleak for the country last month." That was when WADA decided the Russian Anti-Doping Agency was still "non-compliant with its rules" (BBC, 12/4).

'RUSSIAN WAY': ESPN.com's Bonnie Ford reported whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov said that "serious" discipline should be imposed, while "leaving the door open for some athletes to participate in the upcoming PyeongChang 2018 Games." In comments shared via his N.Y.-based lawyer, Jim Walden, Rodchenkov said that "innocent" athletes should "be able to compete at least under a neutral flag." He added that Russia needs to take "a serious first step toward reform and redemption." Rodchenkov: "I wish Tuesday began with a confession and apology from Russia, which would give the world confidence they might embrace truth and reform. This is not the Russian way. If they are not disciplined seriously, they will be laughing at the IOC behind closed doors and plotting their next caper" (ESPN.com, 12/4).

'SUBSTANTIAL IMPORTANCE': RT reported a decision not to broadcast the Olympic Games if Russia's team is barred, "mulled by several Russian broadcasters," would hurt the IOC and its sponsors and hamper "the promotion of Olympic values," according to the European Broadcasting Union. EBU spokesperson Claire Rainford said, "The Russian market is undoubtedly of substantial importance for the sports industry in Europe. A blackout of the Olympics 2018 would clearly have an impact on the exposure objectives of the IOC and the expectations of its sponsors who might count at least on a right of first negotiations for this territory." She expressed hopes that there would be a "speedy resolution" to the broadcasting conflict "for the benefit of sport, its fans and the industry as a whole" (RT, 12/4).

MERELY JUSTICE: In London, Sean Ingle opined there is "no justifiable room for doubt, nor reason to go wobbly." The IOC "must ban Russia" from the PyeongChang Winter Games. The "scale of its sporting crimes is outrageous." The "evidence is conclusive." Only "the appropriate punishment has so far been lacking." We live in a world where every story "seems to be branded as fake news by fools, trolls, and those irreversibly blinded by their prejudices." Yet "remarkably," Professor Richard McLaren's reports into Russian doping "have not only withstood every smear but have found their truths hardened." This time there "must be no weasel words, no back-room deals, no ugly accommodations." Merely "justice that is desperately overdue" (GUARDIAN, 12/4).