Former world anti-doping chief Dick Pound slammed the Olympic response to the Russian doping scandal on Tuesday, warning “we talk more than we walk” and saying that the Games’ credibility had taken a serious hit.
Pound was speaking at an International Olympic Committee (IOC) session in Gangneung, South Korea, three days before the Pyeongchang Winter Games, which have been engulfed in complications from Russia’s drugs conspiracy.
Pound’s tough comments prompted a complaint from the floor that he talks too much to the press, a jibe which in turn triggered a furious response from the Canadian.
The IOC has formally banned Russia from Pyeongchang but has allowed 168 “clean” athletes to take part under a neutral flag and may still allow the Russian flag at the closing ceremony.
Russia’s suspension follows a highly orchestrated plot culminating during its hosting of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, where tainted samples were switched through a hole in the anti-doping laboratory’s wall.
“I believe that in the collective mind in a significant portion of the world and among the athletes of the world, that the IOC has not only failed to protect clean athletes but has made it possible for cheating athletes to prevail against the clean athletes,” said Pound.
“We talk more than we walk.
“The athletes and the public at large in my view no longer have confidence that their interests are being protected. Our commitment to both is in serious doubt and with respect I don’t think we can talk our way out of this problem.”
However, it appeared to be an unpopular opinion from Pound, who along with Britain’s Adam Pengilly was the only delegate to abstain from an otherwise unanimous vote of confidence in the IOC’s handling of the Russian suspension.
– ‘Flagrant attack’ –
Pound said Russia’s ban could be lifted without it acknowledging its conduct or even committing to stopping it. He said the IOC had also failed to protect the whistleblowers who brought the scandal to light.
“They’ve been left out there, hanging alone, with no protection whatsoever from the Olympic movement,” said Pound, adding: “I would say more attention has been paid to getting Russian athletes into the Pyeongchang Games than dealing with the Russian conduct.”
“I’m sorry, but that is not an appropriate response by the IOC to a flagrant attack on the Olympic Games and on clean athletes by Russia,” he said.
Pound, the ex-president of the World Anti-Doping Agency, also criticised the “perverse” judgments of the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which last week reversed life Olympic bans on 28 Russian athletes and staff.
After 15 of the Russians applied to take part in Pyeongchang, the IOC refused to give them invitations.
But on Tuesday, CAS told AFP that 32 Russians would launch a fresh appeal to compete, including the highly decorated Korean-Russian speed skater Victor An.
“We are in trouble now,” said Pound, referring to the IOC.
“We need to make it clear to the world that our decisions and actions are based on principles that distinguish the Olympic movement from entertainment sports.
“We’re not talking about politics… we’re talking about how we respond to attacks on those fundamental values by a country which voluntarily agreed to respect those values — and which then attempted to destroy them,” he added.