Olympic and Paralympic champions, athletes and politicians endorse letter to IOC
A host of Britain’s Olympic heroes have joined forces with politicians and leading figures from the sporting world to sign a letter to the International Olympic Committee pleading for Russia to be excluded from the Games in Rio de Janeiro next month after the country’s flagrant abuse of the anti-doping system.
The letter will intensify the pressure on the IOC after revelations of rampant, state-organised doping. The Times can also reveal that Russian athletes are among the 45 new cases of positive findings from retesting of London 2012 and Beijing 2008 samples using new techniques.
We have seen medals stolen from clean athletes from Britain
The signatories include Olympic and Paralympic champions such as swimmer Rebecca Adlington, long jumper Lynn Davies, 400 metres hurdler Sally Gunnell, and 11-times Paralympic champion Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson. Sports stars such as boxer Amir Khan, rower Katherine Grainger and javelin thrower Goldie Sayers are also among those calling for a blanket ban on Russia.
The letter, which has been organised by The Times, has been sent to the IOC’s executive board, which is expected to make a decision at a meeting tomorrow over whether to exclude the entire Russian team as it deals with the worst doping crisis in its history.
Russia’s track and field team has already been excluded from Rio by the IAAF, athletics’ international governing body, but the pressure for the IOC to take its own action is growing. Significantly, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) yesterday opened its own suspension proceedings against Russia and will seek to ban the country from its Games in Rio in September.
Ed Warner, the chairman of UK Athletics, one of the early campaigners for Russia’s exclusion from track and field competition, endorsed the calls for an all-sport ban.
He said: “In our opinion the strong steps taken by the IAAF specific to athletics should be mirrored by the IOC and other international sporting bodies. The IOC entrusted Russia with hosting its 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. Russia’s flagrant abuse of the anti-doping system has severely undermined the credibility of those Games and by extension the Olympic movement as a whole.
“In recent Olympics we have seen a number of medals stolen from clean athletes from Britain and elsewhere around the world by Russian doping cheats and by what has now been demonstrated to be a Russian state-sanctioned programme of doping.
“These medal-winning moments of joy will never be regained by athletes cheated of their triumphs. It is a disgrace that today many still await the receipt of medals that by rights are theirs. Now is the time to make every effort to ensure athletes across all sports do not suffer this injustice once again in Rio next month.
“We believe an outright ban on Russia is, right now, the right move to ensure a bright future for Olympic sport.”
Baroness Grey-Thompson said she too now believed the IOC needed to ban the whole Russian team, which numbers 387 athletes, because it amounted to “state-sanctioned” cheating. She added: “It is sad that there could be clean athletes banned but that’s what happens when cheats compete, and there is a likelihood that other sports in Russia are involved. Pressure must be kept up on other countries and in the testing of athletes as this could be happening elsewhere.”
Alan Campbell, a rowing bronze medallist in London four years ago who is to compete in Rio, signed the letter and said: “I’m not against Russia, I’m against any nation that systematically dopes its athletes, and this isn’t just a Russian problem but what appears to be an ongoing problem in sport. The consequences have to be real.
“If I were an athlete in such a system I would feel let down by the leaders. I wouldn’t want anything to do with that system and would seek to compete as a neutral athlete under the IOC flag representing my country and nationality, but not my national Olympic committee.”
The IPC will make a decision on whether to suspend Russia’s national Paralympic committee (NPC) in the week before the Olympics opens on August 5.
A statement from the IPC says: “In light of the prevailing doping culture endemic within Russian sport, at the very highest levels, NPC Russia appears unable or unwilling to ensure compliance with, and the enforcement of the IPC’s Anti-Doping Code within its own national jurisdiction.
“The suspension of NPC Russia will now be considered in accordance with the IPC suspension policy.”
The 45 new doping failures from the London and Beijing Games — at least half of whom were medal winners — were part of a second wave of retests. The latest results bring the total number of positive drug tests from retesting to 98 since the programme was launched earlier this year. The IOC said 15 of 138 samples retested from London athletes had flagged up positive findings, with those involved coming from nine countries and two sports. Within the Beijing group there were 30 provisional adverse findings, of which 23 were medallists, from eight countries and four sports.
It is understood Russian athletes were among these latest failures from both Beijing and London. Following the first wave of retests, Russia admitted that eight of its athletes from London 2012 were implicated.
So far the IOC has re-analysed more than 1,200 samples from the previous two summer Games, with the emphasis on past medal winners.
The IOC noted, however, that the Beijing findings were provisional, which can be reversed on closer examination. Two provisional positives from the first wave of Beijing tests announced in May were ultimately not deemed conclusive.
The IOC president Thomas Bach said in a statement: “The new re- analysis once again shows the commitment of the IOC in the fight against doping.”
“All athletes found to have infringed the anti-doping rules will be banned from competing [in Rio].”
Two more waves of re-analysis will be carried out during and after the Games in Brazil. Two reports from the World Anti-Doping Agency have detailed state-run drug cheating by Russia, affecting at least 30 sports. Fourteen national anti-doping agencies, including the United States, Canada and Germany have also sent a joint letter to Bach urging him to exclude Russia from Rio. Russia is making last-ditch attempts to avoid a ban, including sending a plea from the former Soviet Union premier Mikhail Gorbachev to Bach.
Russia’s president Vladimir Putin also announced that a new anti-doping commission will be created for the country. He proposed 81-year-old Vitaly Smirnov, an honorary member of the IOC, to lead the panel.
Smirnov, who once served as the Soviet Union’s deputy sports minister and helped to organise the 1980 Olympics in Moscow, was among five IOC members given a “serious warning” in 1999 for their role in the Salt Lake City bid scandal. Gorbachev’s letter to the IOC said that a collective sanction was “unacceptable,” adding: “I am worried and deeply upset by the possibility that in the case of a ban on Russian athletes competing in the Olympics, the innocent will be punished along with the guilty.”
The Times’ letter to the IOC
To the executive board of the International Olympic Committee,
We ask that you ban the entire Russian team from the Rio 2016 Olympics. It is time to take a stand against the institutionalised doping that would otherwise pollute the Games.
Now is not a time for half measures. It is a time to stand up to cheats and uphold the reputation of the greatest sporting show on earth.
The list of signatories
Baroness Grey-Thompson (Eleven-time Paralympic wheelchair racing champion)
Rebecca Adlington (Double Olympic swimming champion
Andrew Triggs Hodge (Double Olympic rowing champion)
Sally Gunnell (Olympic hurdles champion)
Tessa Sanderson (Olympic javelin champion)
Katherine Grainger (Olympic rowing champion)
Lynn Davies (Olympic long jump champion)
James DeGale and Luke Campbell (Olympic boxing champions)
Jared Tallent (Olympic walking champion)
Mark Hunter (Olympic rowing champion)
Amir Khan (Olympic silver medallist)
David Bedford (Former 10,000m world record holder)
Roland Schoeman (Olympic swimming gold medallist)
Sharron Davies (Olympic swimming silver medallist)
Gabby Logan (TV presenter and former gymnast)
Richard Whitehead (London 2012 para-athletics gold medallist)
Jon-Allan Butterworth (London 2012 para-cycling silver medallist)
Fran Halsall (Olympic swimmer)
Vicky Thornley, Peter Chambers, Alan Campbell, John Collins and Jono Clegg (Olympic rowers)
Lawrence Clarke (Olympic hurdler
Brendan Foster (Olympic 10,000m bronze medallist)
Richard Caborn (Former minister for sport)
Tessa Jowell (Former Olympics minister)
Jenny Meadows, Lisa Dobriskey, Goldie Sayers (British athletics Olympians)
Lord Moynihan (Former British Olympic Association chairman, Olympic rower and sports minister)
Kell Brook, Tony Bellew, Ricky Burns, Anthony Crolla, Jamie McDonnell (Boxing world champions)
Andrew Steele (Former British sprinter)
Alastair Campbell (Former government director of communications)
Graeme Le Saux (Former England international footballer)
Anne Keothavong (Former British No 1 tennis player)
Graham Wardell (Former Scotland swimming coach)
Margaret Kelly (Olympic swimming silver medallist)
June Croft (Olympic swimming silver medallist)
Brian Brinkley and Rob Woodhouse (Olympic swimming bronze medallists)
Ben Hawes (Three-times hockey Olympian and chair of BOA athletes’ commission)
Gaynor Willis and Ricky Burrell (Olympic swimmers)
World Swimming Coaches Association
American Swimming Coaches Association
Canadian Swimming Coaches & Teachers Association
Australian Swimming Coaches & Teachers Association
John Amaechi (Former British basketball player)
Jade Lally (Olympic discus thrower)
Guy Davis (British Swimming)
Amanda Loots (South African swimmer)
Alex Coci (Romanian swimmer)
David Arluck (American sports strategist)
Diana Sutherland Nash, Gareth Sykes, Leigh Atkinson, Nuala Muir-Cochrane, Matthew Bowe (Former British swimmers)
Simon Mason (Three-time Olympic hockey player)
Tim Farron (Leader of the Liberal Democrats)
Jack Straw (Former home secretary)
Clive Efford (Shadow sports minister)
Chris Bryant (Former shadow Commons leader)
Dr Christian Jessen (Doctor and presenter of series including Embarrassing Bodies)
Peter Tatchell (Human rights campaigner)
Adam Pengilly (IOC member)