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Keep Russia out of the Olympic games to send a message

The Olympic and Russian flags during the Opening

The Olympic and Russian flags during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi Winter Olympics at the Fisht Olympic Stadium on February 7, 2014 in Sochi. The International Olympic Committee said on Julyt 19, 2016 it will study "legal options" on banning Russia from the Rio Games and ordered disciplinary action against Russian officials implicated in a state-run doping system. Credit: AFP/Getty Images / Yuri Kadobnov

The International Olympic Committee has no choice but to ban Russia from next month’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

That’s the only satisfactory response to a World Anti-Doping Agency report devastating in its detail and its conclusion: The Russian government conducted a sweeping program to give athletes steroids and cover up positive test results. Russian President Vladimir Putin blamed politics for intruding into sports, but it was his government that infected sports in an audacious scheme that involved Russia’s feared security service, its sports ministry and its anti-doping organization.

The Russian plot involved hundreds of athletes in 30 sports, including 21 contested in the Summer Games. It skewed results of multiple major competitions, including Russia’s Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014, where intelligence agents were able to break into supposedly tamper-proof sample bottles and substitute clean urine samples for dirty ones.

The IOC does not have clean hands, either. It has been beset by politics and corruption, and its response to doping has been inconsistent. After East Germany’s even more far-reaching state-sponsored doping program was exposed in 1993, the IOC said it had no intention of revisiting the past and stripping medals. In Russia’s case, WADA, which gets half of its funding and board staffing from the IOC, waited four years to act on 2010 information from an employee of Russia’s anti-doping agency, and then its response was weak, advising the whistleblower to contact a German journalist the agency hoped would investigate the claims.

The IOC says it is exploring its legal options. To show it takes seriously its own ideal of fair play, the committee needs to respond to growing international pressure and speak clearly about the primacy of drug-free competition. Russia should be kept out of Rio. — The editorial board


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