IOC looks set to dash Russia's Rio hopes

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The International Olympic Committee looks set to dash Russia's hopes of persuading it to let its athletics team compete in Rio in Lausanne today.

Last week the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) voted unanimously in Vienna to uphold a global competition ban on Russia's athletics federation that has been in place since November.

That unprecedented sanction was imposed after an 11-month World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) investigation uncovered systemic doping within Russian athletics.

Russian athletes and politicians reacted with fury to Friday's vote, with sports minister Vitaly Mutko saying the IAAF should be disbanded and two race walkers immediately filing cases against the decision at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

And with the IOC having already announced its "Olympic address the difficult decision between collective responsibility and individual justice", many observers had expected Olympic chiefs to dilute the punishment.

But that was before a statement on Saturday from the IOC's executive board that said: "The IOC welcomes and supports the IAAF's strong stance against doping.

"This is in line with the IOC's long-held zero-tolerance policy."

It continued to say the board held a teleconference to discuss the decision, noting the report made by the IAAF's task force in Russia that outlined just how much work was needed before the sporting superpower could be trusted again.

The IOC's 16-member board, which includes president Thomas Bach, WADA president Sir Craig Reedie and CAS president John Coates added that the "eligibility of athletes in any international competition including the Olympic Games is a matter for the respective international federation".

This last point effectively closes another door for Russia, as it had hoped its political muscle could secure a more lenient sanction from the IOC, particularly as Bach and others were believed to be more sympathetic to their case.

But this optimism ignored the legal strength of the IAAF's carefully constructed decision and the erosion of support for Russia at the IOC as fresh doping scandals have emerged.

On the first point, Rune Andersen, the leader of the IAAF task force, said they had taken "external legal advice" to make sure their decision was "proportionate" so it would stand up to the expected challenges at CAS.

This is why the IAAF will allow "a handful" of Russian athletes who can demonstrate spotless anti-doping records, verified by credible testing agencies, to apply to compete in Rio as independents.

This measure is usually only reserved for athletes from disputed territories or from countries emerging from armed conflict, although the most famous example of athletes appearing under an IOC banner came at the 1980 Olympics when many western nations, in partial support of the American-led boycott in protest at the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan, competed in Moscow under the Olympic flag.

The summit on Tuesday is expected to clarify the details of how any Russian athletes - or athletes from other countries under the microscope for doping issues, such as Kenya - might compete in Rio.

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