World Olympians Association: Blanket Doping Bans Unfairly Punish “Clean” Athletes

The World Olympians Association is asking for a swift solution to a suspension of all Russian track and field athletes to allow “clean” competitors to participate in major international events.

Blanket bans on all Olympic competitors from countries embroiled in doping scandals are “unjust,” the World Olympians Association (WOA) said in a statement released last week.

While the association does not call out Russia specifically, the statement came following a report from the World Anti-Doping Agency last month that detailed widespread, state-sponsored doping among some of the country’s track and field athletes. Soon after the All-Russia Athletic Federation (ARAF) was suspended by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF)—the world’s governing body for track and field, according to news reports. The suspension prohibits Russian track and field athletes from competing in international competitions and could keep them from competing in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janiero.

WOA, which serves as the member organization for international Olympians, is speaking up for “clean” athletes who were not involved in the doping allegations and are facing repercussions from the suspension. In its statement, the group asserted that there is an urgent need to ensure that athletes “who have dedicated their life to sport without ever giving in to the temptation to take drugs, cheat their fellow competitors, deceive their colleagues and friends, and destroy the integrity of sport have their rights and their reputations protected and honored.”

“We believe banning clean athletes is unjust and that sport and its many fans will ultimately pay the price as they will miss the opportunity to see their clean heroes compete at the highest level,” WOA President Joel Bouzou said in the statement.

While the suspension of Russian track and field competitors is temporary, for ARAF to be reinstated, it needs to meet several criteria outlined by IAAF, including establishing a strong anti-doping culture.

“The conditions we have announced leave no room for doubt,” IAAF President Sebastian Coe said in a statement. “Russia must demonstrate verifiable change across a range of criteria, and satisfy our taskforce that those criteria will be met permanently.”

WOA supports sanctions against athletes who were involved in doping scandals but is urging swift action be taken to allow clean athletes to train for and participate in major events.

“We must place our trust in the relevant authorities to do everything in their power to improve testing protocols and rid sport of cheats, but we must also respect the rights of clean athletes,” Bouzou said.

“It is not only the rights and reputations of athletes at stake, but also their ability to act as role models, inspiring young people and encouraging the next generation to take up sport.”

Russian athlete Mariya Savinova, shown after winning gold in the 800 meters during the 2012 Olympics in London. (Jon Connell/Flickr)

Katie Bascuas

By Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. MORE

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