A tussle over Russia's Olympic fate
Controversy erupts ahead of highly anticipated report over doping skullduggery at Sochi 2014
A North American-led campaign to ban Russia from the Rio de Janeiro Olympics has opened up an international divide on how to deal with the doping scandal engulfing the nation.
European Olympic Committees (EOC) president Pat Hickey said he was "shocked" by a move led by the United States and Canada to have Russia completely banned from the Games, which start in Rio on Aug 5.
Hickey said he was alerted to the move when the head of the World Anti-Doping Agency's (Wada) athletes commission sent out an appeal for backing for the campaign.
Russia is already banned from international athletics because of a doping storm.
Today, Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren's report is due on his investigation of allegations that the Russian government manipulated doping samples taken at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics to protect their athletes.
But Hickey said a US-Canadian attempt to get a blanket ban before the report has been released "has shocked and concerned me on a number of levels".
"My concern is that there seems to have been an attempt to agree an outcome before any evidence has been presented," Hickey said.
"Such interference and calls ahead of the McLaren Report publication are totally against internationally recognised fair legal process and may have completely undermined the integrity and therefore the credibility of this important report."
Hickey said that Beckie Scott, the Canadian chairman of the Wada athletes commission and an International Olympic Committee (IOC) member, had sent out an e-mail appeal to back a letter from the US and Canadian anti-doping agencies to IOC president Thomas Bach.
The call for a ban is based on findings of the independent McLaren Report.
Hickey said the McLaren report is meant to remain confidential until its publication today.
"It is clear from the e-mail and letter that both the independence and the confidentiality of the report have been compromised," he said.
Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko was surprised by the draft letter and the recent call by Travis Tygart, the US Anti-Doping Agency chief, for a ban on all Russian athletes.
"The McLaren report is yet to be published but, for them, everything is already clear. This is surprising. Maybe it was Tygart who wrote the report himself? I would not be surprised," Mutko said.
Hickey's disquiet was echoed by Olympic chiefs from Croatia and Greece.
"It seems incredible that important members of the Olympic Movement are seeking to build a global coalition to get another National Olympic Committee banned even before the requisite evidence has been published," said Zlatko Matesa, EOC executive member and president of the Croatian Olympic Committee.
In a blog posted on the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport website, Paul Melia, president of the body that oversees anti-doping efforts in Canada, said Olympic officials must be prepared to issue a blanket ban of Russia if the McLaren report confirms allegations that the country's government covered up doping failures.
He anticipated that the report "could paint an unprecedented picture of state-supported corruption and subversion of the anti-doping system", along the lines alleged by Russian laboratory director Grigory Rodchenkov in The New York Times.
"If Monday's report confirms the Rodchenkov allegations, then the IOC will have no choice but to ban all Russian athletes from this summer's Olympic Summer Games in Rio," Melia wrote.
"And it must be the same consequence for the Russian contingent at the Paralympics in September." - AFP.