Russia’s Olympic chief announced Thursday 271 of his country’s athletes had been cleared to compete in the games which get underway tomorrow, despite the doping scandal that led to a ban on the track and field team.
Russia will compete in most Olympic sports, Alexander Zhukov said at a news conference in Rio de Janeiro. International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach earlier said a final ruling on the entry of Russian athletes would be announced later Thursday.
The International Olympic Committee set up a panel of three executive board members to make the final call, taking into account the advice of an independent sports arbitrator.
“I think this is a very thorough, strict and clear procedure. You will see then the results of this individual analysis … in order to ensure a level playing field here at the Olympic Games,” Bach said
A number of international federations announced separately Thursday that they had received the final approval for Russian entries in their events, including boxing, judo, equestrian, volleyball and golf.
Russia’s track and field team remains barred following an earlier decision by the International Association of Athletics Federations.
Bach again defended this IOC executive board’s decision not to ban the entire Russian Olympic team from the Rio Games. The World Anti-Doping Agency and many other anti-doping agencies had called for a complete ban after Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren issued a report that accused the Russian sports ministry of orchestrating a doping program that involved more than two dozen summer and winter Olympic sports.
Bach insisted that athletes cannot be punished for the wrongdoing of their government.
“We had to follow the rules of justice and justice has to be independent from politics,” Bach said. “You cannot answer to a violation of a law by another violation of a law. This is destroying justice. We had to respect basic principles of natural law.”
For him personally, Bach said, the test for defending the decision was “to look into the eyes of all the athletes.”
“I can tell you during my many, many visits to the Olympic village here I have been looking into the eyes of many athletes,” he said.
Bach said that McLaren’s report is not final, and that once the investigation is complete, the IOC could take further action against Russians.
“We want to have full light shed on this anti-doping system in Russia,” he said. “We will not hesitate to issue further measures or sanctions.”
The news conference came after a three-day IOC general assembly where Bach and many members slammed WADA for its handling of the Russian crisis. They suggested the agency should have acted sooner against evidence of state-backed doping, and that the timing of McLaren’s report had caused chaos so close to the Rio Games.
Bach reiterated his call for a full review of the global anti-doping system to make it more efficient and independent.
“This is a situation we do not want to happen ever again in sport,” he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.