Dick Pound says ban Russia from Rio 2016 Olympics
World Anti-Doping Agency founder says a blanket ban would improve Games' prestige, not tarnish it
The founder of the World Anti-Doping Agency says the answer is clear — Russia should be banned from the 2016 Rio Olympics for the good of the movement.
Dick Pound, a longtime IOC member and a former competitive swimmer himself, says the IOC has an opportunity to send a clear message about zero tolerance for doping in the Olympics.
"This is institutional cheating. It's just not acceptable in sport," said Pound on Wednesday.
But the enormity of Russia — both athletically and politically — seems to be giving the International Olympic Committee pause, and it's delayed any decision on the allegations of state-sponsored doping in Russia until Sunday.
"It's political — instead of focusing as we should on the sport aspects of this," Pound said.
Far from marring the Olympic brand, Pound said banning Russia from the upcoming games would improve the reputation of the IOC and the Olympic movement more generally.
"It would demonstrate that, on matters of principle, and the protection of clean athletes and the integrity of competition, that the Olympic movement is prepared to suspend even one of its most successful countries, because it has been demonstrated to endorse and in fact organize cheating."
Possible legal implications
Russia has been accused of running a widespread state-sponsored doping program designed to give Russian athletes an edge in international competition by WADA, the agency Pound founded, which has recommended that Russia be banned from the upcoming games.
Pound said he understands the IOC delaying the decision for fear of legal reprisal from Russian athletes, but says they've missed an opportunity by not embracing WADA's recommendations.
"If I were the president of the IOC, I would be on my knees saying, 'Thank you for taking this albatross from around my neck. We are happy to do what you recommend,'" Pound said.
Russia is not the only country with a doping problem, but this situation is unique in that it was run by the state and extended to almost all areas of high-level sport in the country, he noted.
"It's not like a couple of bent coaches or doctors — the way it might happen in North America," he said.
"This is a state program that's designed to make sure that Russian athletes have an advantage, and that they don't get caught."
The IOC has said it will announce its decision regarding Russian on July 24 — less than two weeks from the start of the Rio games on August 5.
With files from CBC Radio One's The Early Edition.