Film-makers behind Olympic doping expos say athletes may be allowed to take part as neutral competitors
The film-makers behind the documentary which exposed Russias state-sponsored doping programme have accused the International Olympic Committee (IOC) of doing backroom deals with Moscow ahead of next months winter Games in south Korea.
In December, the IOC banned Russias Olympic committee from taking part in the games in Pyeongchang, and disqualified 43 Russian athletes following a report by the World Anti-Doping Agency which revealed a massive doping operation at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, masterminded by Vladimir Putins FSB spy agency.
The whistleblower who exposed the programme, Dr Grigory Rodchenkov, is currently in hiding in the US. Rodchenkov the former director of Moscows anti-doping centre is the subject of the Netflix documentary Icarus, which was nominated for a Bafta on Tuesday.
Rodchenkovs insider testimony played a key role in the IOCs decision to ban Russia, and was subsequently confirmed by several forensic investigations.
The films director Bryan Fogel and producer Dan Cogan said that the IOC was backsliding on its commitment to exclude Russian athletes. The more you get into the details of the ban the more you and can see the backroom deals with Moscow, Cogan told the Guardian.
Forty-two Russians are now appealing their Olympic bans. Their cases are due to be heard by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) on 22 January, and a decision is due on 31 January nine days before the Games open.
However, Cogan said the IOC is insisting that Rodchenkov attend the hearings in person. If he fails to do so, CAS may allow the athletes to take part as neutral competitors.
They will be wearing shirts that say: Olympic athlete from Russia and will be allowed to parade in the closing ceremony, Cogan said. Its a gift to Putin so he can put images of triumphant Russian athletes on TV so it looks like nothing happened here.
He added: It has the patina of a ban. In fact they [the athletes] can get around it. The IOC is choosing to protect Russia rather than defending the integrity of the Olympic ideals which its supposed to uphold.
Cogan called on the IOC president Thomas Bach to threaten to exclude Russia from Olympic sport for 20 years, should anything happen to Rodchenkov.
There is little prospect of Rodchenkov flying to Switzerland. Russia has accused him of lying and issued an arrest warrant. Putin has suggested the FBI drugged the scientist, and says the doping allegations are part of an American plot to damage him politically. A top Russian Olympic official has called for Rodchenkov to be executed.
Rodchenkovs lawyer Jim Walden described his client whose whereabouts are unknown as extremely brave and an incredible man. Rodchenkov was grateful to WADA for recognising that he was telling the truth the whole time. But he was now distressed that the IOC was considering lifting the suspension of some Russian athletes.
He sees this is as a symptom of the need for reform, not just in Russia but inside the IOC, Walden said, adding his interactions with Rodchenkov were extremely limited and highly controlled.
The scientist who fled to the US from Moscow in 2016 was still hoping to make a meaningful contribution and have a second act, the lawyer said.
Fogel whose documentary began as an investigation into sports doping said that what happened during the Sochi games was an unimaginable fraud.
Rochenkov told the New York Times that FSB officers switched positive doping samples for clean ones, in dead-of-night exchanges at state-controlled laboratories.
This system was in place in London and Beijing, Fogel said. It goes back 30 or 4o years of sport history. Rodchenkov inherited what was an anti-anti-doping system. The system was set up to allow Russian athletes to cheat across all sports in international competitions.
He added: If there is no punishment for fraud on this scale and level why hold the Olympic games at all?
The IOC said last month it banned Russia because of its unprecedented systematic manipulation of the anti-doping system. Individual athletes will be able to compete effectively as neutrals if they can prove their anti-doping credentials, it has said.
No coaches or medical doctors of athletes involved in doping will be accredited. Russias sports minister Vitaly Mutko, and his then deputy minister Yuri Nagornykh, have also been banned from taking part in all future Olympic games.
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