The Current

Should Russia be banned from the Olympics following McLaren doping report?

With the Rio Games just weeks away, an independent investigation has confirmed widespread state-sponsored doping by Russian Olympic athletes. Can international sporting competitions ever be clean and should the IOC ban Russia from competing?
Anti-doping leaders and groups of athletes are calling for a Russian ban from the upcoming Rio Olympics. (Jim Young/Reuters)

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An independent report revealing an extensive Russian state-sponsored doping program between late 2011 and August 2015 found at least 312 instances where drug test results were falsified across a total of 28 Olympic sports.

So far the International Olympic Committee has promised the "toughest sanctions available" but the committee has yet to announce whether there will be a blanket ban preventing Russian athletes from competing in Rio.

Dick Pound, founding president of the World Anti-Doping Agency and a two-time IOC vice-president, tells The Current's Laura Lynch he was impressed how thorough the report was but wasn't surprised with the results.

Pound feels moving forward, it's important the IOC send a clear message.

"I think, you know if you have a mantra that drug-free sport zero tolerance for doping, you've got to be careful you don't turn that into zero tolerance for doping unless of course it's Russia."

IOC President Thomas Bach on the findings of the McLaren report 0:21

The report was commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency. The coverup is thought to go as high up as the Russian deputy minister of sports, who has so far denied any involvement and has now been suspended.

"This is an attitude. This is a culture. What happens when you allow systemic doping is all the people around you start to think and believe that this is fine, this is okay, and it takes generations to change that kind of thinking," says Perdita Felicien. She's a two-time Canadian Olympian and a member of the CBC broadcast team at the Rio Olympic Games next month.

Felicien feels the report is a vindication as an athlete but like Pound she's not surprised about the findings.  She tells Lynch a ban on Russian athletes is an important message for the IOC to put out and without that move she says, "they are not really serious about changing the tides."

Alexander Zhukov, president of Russia's Olympic committee, expects the IOC to decide Russia's Olympic fate by July 24. (Alexander Zemlianichenko/The Associated Press)

The IOC is reluctant to create a ban on Russian athletes but Pound feels without change there are no consequences.

"I find that there's very little appetite in the IOC leadership to pull the trigger and say look this has got to stop. If we're going to deter conduct of this nature, you know other countries as well as in Russia, there has to be a price."

The problem that the IOC faces according to Pound is that by placing this restriction on Russia competing in future Olympics, innocent athletes are punished.

"The crossroads that the IOC faces and the elephant in the room is this state-designed to operate a controlled system that affects all athletes in Russia," Pound tells Lynch.

Aside from casting a dark light on the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, the report raises difficult questions about what governing bodies can do to clean up international sporting competitions.

Felicien doesn't believe the Olympics will ever be free of doping and does fear an implemented ban may prompt people to stop watching the Games.

"I fear what will happen next is if Russia is banned that people will look at the results of the Olympics and think oh it's not as exciting or it's not as interesting ...  I think sport is sport and what makes it interesting is for the most part that everyone starts off with an equal playing field."

Listen to the full conversation at the top of this web post.

This segment was produced by The Current's Sujata Berry, Josh Bloch and Sarah Grant.