MOSCOW (AP) — Condemning Russian state authorities on Tuesday, the International Olympic Committee says their latest cheating attempt in a years-long doping scandal is an insult to the sports world.
“The IOC will support the toughest sanctions against all those responsible for this manipulation,” the Olympic body said in a statement.
On Monday, a World Anti-Doping Agency expert panel confirmed a database from the discredited Moscow laboratory that Russian officials were required to hand over in January was tainted with fake evidence, including to incriminate whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov, the former lab director. Results of positive doping tests were removed.
The panel recommended Russian athletes should compete as neutrals at next year’s Tokyo Olympics and other major events for the next four years, including the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.
When the WADA executive committee meets on Dec. 9 in Paris, it will also consider the panel’s request for Russia to be banned from hosting sports events such as world championships through 2023, and blocked from bidding for the 2032 Olympics.
“The (WADA) report proves that any manipulation of the data is the sole responsibility of the Russian authorities,” the IOC said.
“This flagrant manipulation is an attack on the credibility of sport itself and is an insult to the sporting movement worldwide,” the Olympic body said, urging Russia to finally deliver the raw laboratory data.
Evidence from the Moscow lab, which was shuttered four years ago and sealed by state authorities, could prove hundreds of cases of doping and cover-ups implicating Russian athletes in multiple sports.
Handing over the data in January was meant to be Russia’s peace offering to help settle years of disputes since November 2015 when WADA investigation reports started detailing a state-backed doping program and systematic cheating to win medals at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games.
Russia’s state apparatus pushed back on Tuesday with foreign minister Sergei Lavrov casting calls for new anti-doping sanctions as one more Western effort to sideline his country.
“There are those who want to put Russia in a defensive position accused of pretty much everything in every sphere of international life — conflicts, economics, energy, gas pipelines, arms sales,” Lavrov told a news conference in Moscow when asked about the WADA panel’s recommendation.
Governments worldwide could also be enlisted to support action against Russia.
The IOC said it would “strongly urge WADA” — which is equally funded by sports and governments worldwide — to “refer all these files to the Council of Europe and UNESCO,” the United Nations’ cultural agency.
The Russian anti-doping agency, known as RUSADA, has been sharply critical of the state’s approach to the issue and said it expects Russia will likely have to accept the consequences.
“They’re to be expected and they’re justified,” RUSADA CEO Yuri Ganus told The Associated Press.
“One of the conditions for the sports authorities was not met, and unfortunately our athletes become hostages in this situation,” he added. “Now there’s a question about a possible appeal, but as a lawyer I don’t see how it can be appealed.”
Ganus has long called for a shakeup in how sports are run in Russia, and suggested years of defensiveness had driven Russia into a dead end.
He said: “We’re in the fifth year of this crisis, and unfortunately those individuals running our sport have not just failed to bring it out of the crisis, they’ve stuck it in deeper.”
Even before WADA votes on the recommendations, Russian Sports Minister Pavel Kolobkov is already talking of an appeal.
“The position of our experts was not heard and these recommendations were adopted,” Kolobkov said in a video statement. He added he wants the Court of Arbitration for Sport to hear the case anew.
That appeal, however, would likely have to be filed by RUSADA and it’s far from certain whether the state-funded but independent-minded organization would agree.
Deputy CEO Margarita Pakhnotskaya told The Associated Press “it has not been decided yet.”
Russian IOC member Yelena Isinbayeva said she expected WADA’s executive committee to approve the sanctions, which would be the strictest punishment yet for any country for doping-related offenses.
“Experience shows that if there’s already a recommendation, then they will be taken note of and implemented,” the former pole vaulter wrote on Instagram. “I have no illusions about a positive outcome or a negative scenario. I’m just waiting for the ruling to be announced Dec. 9.”
At last year’s Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, Russia sent 168 athletes under the banner “Olympic Athlete from Russia” after its team was officially barred by the IOC.
This time round, new rules passed last year give WADA much greater authority to sanction entire countries across a range of sports. The rules have yet to be tested at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.