Los Angeles: Former World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) chief Dick Pound has called for a tough stance on Russia’s doping violations as the sports world braces for the release of a new investigation into accusations of state-run cheating.
Pound, the International Olympic Committee’s representative on the WADA Foundation Board, said firm action against Russia was necessary to deter other nations from widespread doping.
“I think if we are sufficiently firm with Russia, there will be an enormous deterrent effect,” Pound told AFP in a wide-ranging interview ahead of the December 9 release of a report by Canadian law professor Richard McLaren expected to shine more light on doping in Russia.
The first part of the McLaren report, commissioned by WADA after revelations by the former head of the Moscow anti-doping laboratory, was published in July and detailed an elaborate state-sponsored scheme in Russia to manipulate drug tests at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics and Paralympics.
Publication of the report plunged the Olympic movement into chaos on the eve of the Rio de Janeiro Games, with the IOC and WADA at loggerheads over how best to sanction the Russian Olympic Committee.
Pound believes the IOC’s failure to impose a blanket ban on Russia from Rio represented a missed opportunity, and undermined the organization’s repeated pledges of a “zero tolerance” policy on doping.
“You can’t have a mantra like the IOC does of ‘zero tolerance for doping’ which means ‘zero tolerance for doping – unless it’s Russia, because Russia is a big and important country,'” Pound told AFP.
“There was an opportunity to send the message by saying ‘no matter who you are, how important is your country, if you cheat, there will be consequences’.
“The IOC is nothing if it has no ethical principles, it is always hoped to be the ethical leader of sport, here was a chance to demonstrate that.”
‘Very, very damaging’
The IOC ultimately left it up to international sports federations to determine whether or not they would allow Russian athletes to take part in Rio, a decision which drew stinging criticism from anti-doping officials.
Pound said the IOC’s response to the McLaren report had been influenced by Russia’s status as a sporting superpower.
“You and I both know that if the country involved had been Guatemala, the answer would have been quite different,” he said. “It’s the fact this is Russia that seems to create a problem for the IOC.