IOC acts on doping crisis; backs 5 sports for 2020 Games
LAUSANNE, SWITZERLAND — Olympic leaders took action on two fronts Wednesday, ramping up efforts to keep drug cheats out of the upcoming Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and recommending the inclusion of baseball-softball and four other sports for the 2020 Tokyo Games.
The IOC executive board agreed to double its budget for pre-games drug testing to $500,000, to target athletes from Russia, Kenya and Mexico, and to extend retesting of stored doping samples to include medal winners from the 2008 and 2012 Olympics.
"We want to make sure any targeted athletes who have a positive result will be stopped from competing in Rio," IOC spokesman Mark Adams said. "That is for us the No. 1 priority."
Meantime, the board backed the proposed inclusion of baseball-softball, surfing, karate, sport climbing and skateboarding for Tokyo. Under new IOC rules, local organizers can propose the inclusion of at least one additional sport for their games.
The five sports, which were proposed for inclusion last year by Tokyo organizers, were presented as a package and they will go to a vote of the full IOC at its session in Rio in August on the eve of the games.
"We have successfully passed the first gate," Tokyo chief organizer Yoshiro Mori said.
The International Olympic Committee also called a summit meeting of sports leaders for June 21 to "coordinate and harmonize" the approach on eligibility of athletes for the Rio Games.
The meeting in Lausanne will come four days after the IAAF decides whether to uphold or lift its suspension of Russia's entire track and field team in time for Rio. That sanction was imposed in November after a report by a World Anti-Doping Agency panel detailed state-sponsored doping, cheating and cover-ups in Russia.
"The discussion will have to address the difficult decision between collective responsibility and individual justice," the IOC said.
Some officials oppose a blanket ban on all Russian track athletes, or Russia's entire Olympic team, saying it would punish some athletes who are clean and have never been accused of doping. Critics say evidence of state-backed doping should be enough to keep the Russians out of Rio.
Calls to bar the Russians have grown since Moscow's former drug-testing director alleged that he ran a state-supported doping scheme for Russian athletes and helped switch tainted samples for clean ones at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games.
Asked whether the June 21 meeting could pave the way for some Russians to compete, even if the IAAF maintains its ban, Adams called it "pure speculation."
"Let's wait until the IAAF comes back with a decision before we decide what happens next," he said. "It's wrong to speculate on what we may or may not do."
The IOC said its pre-Rio anti-doping program would put "special focus" on countries whose testing program is non-compliant with global rules, naming Russia, Kenya and Mexico. Kenya, a powerhouse in long-distance running, is currently adopting anti-doping legislation it hopes will make it compliant.
The IOC said the testing will also target sports that WADA has declared "most affected" by doping.
The IOC has set up a disciplinary commission to deliver "swift decisions" in the 55 positive cases that have been recorded so far in retesting of Olympic doping samples — 32 from Beijing and 23 from London. The Russian Olympic Committee has confirmed that 14 of its athletes from Beijing and eight from London were caught in those tests.
The IOC stores samples for 10 years to allow for reanalysis when improved methods become available.
The IOC said it also will hold a summit in October to review the anti-doping program in Rio and continue to push for the creation of an independent testing agency that would be in place before the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
The proposed sports for Tokyo would add 18 events and 474 athletes to the program. If approved, the Tokyo Games would feature 33 sports and about 11,000 athletes, compared to the standard 28 sports and 10,500 athletes.
IOC vice president John Coates said the five represent a "good balance between sports that are very popular in Japan and those better engaging youth."
Baseball and softball have been off the Olympic program since the 2008 Beijing Games. They combined forces to put forward a single bid for inclusion in Tokyo. The four other sports would be new to the Olympics.
Baseball would have a six-team tournament, short of the eight-team format sought by officials from the sport's international federation. Women's softball would also have six teams.
"Validation is always important," USA Softball executive director Craig Cress said. "Even though it's not the final vote, it's a huge step in the right direction. It's not one that we were really looking for, that endorsement from them. We didn't know they were going to be doing that. It's great that they did. It builds more excitement for us as we move toward the August full vote of the IOC council. We're extremely excited and extremely happy today."
Skateboarding had been the main point of contention, due to a lack of a unified international governing body. But IOC officials said rival bodies had reached an agreement in time for IOC approval.
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