Richard Pound is the senior active member of the International Olympic Committee and was founding president of the World Anti-Doping Agency. He chaired the WADA Independent Commission that reported on corruption in Russian athletics in November, 2015.
Like it or not, the International Olympic Committee has decided to absolve Russia for designing and operating a doping program that enabled its athletes to cheat other competitors and to ensure that doped Russian athletes at the Sochi Games in 2014 would not get caught.
I, for one, am hugely disappointed by the IOC's lack of resolve in dealing with proven government-sponsored cheating. This was a perfect opportunity for the IOC to provide moral leadership in regard to a country that showed complete contempt for the rules of the game. The best that could be said of the IOC in the circumstances is that it fumbled the ball and, in the process, may well have scored an own goal.
If the IOC leadership had assumed its responsibilities and was determined to let the Russians participate in the Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, it should have made that decision itself – and taken the resulting flak. The IOC is entitled to determine who may compete in the Games; it was an abandonment of its responsibility to purport to delegate the decision to the individual international sport federations, many of which are conflicted in their dealings with Russia.
Now begins what may be a long process for the IOC to earn back its reputation for safeguarding the integrity of Olympic competition and protecting clean athletes. I do not suggest this cannot be done. I hope that it can and that the public, including athletes, spectators and supporters, will be willing to forgive the 2016 lapse – if they can see a genuine and uncompromising commitment to delivery of doping-free sport, in which actions match the rhetoric. It has to be made much clearer that such cheating has no place in Olympic sport. This is so regardless of whether the cheating is state-sponsored or whether it occurs on an ad-hoc basis in certain areas or in certain sports or clubs. Cheating is cheating.
The ball is now in the IOC's court, at the place of the fumble. The IOC must get off its back foot and move forward. Here are some moves it can make to show leadership:
The IOC should pressure all stakeholders in the World Anti-Doping Agency to end its the chronic underfunding and provide the money necessary to carry out its responsibilities. WADA's annual budget of about $26-million (U.S.) to monitor 206 countries, 206 national Olympic committees and 35 Olympic sports is manifestly insufficient.
As well, WADA should be given the power to conduct investigations, to call on public authorities to provide timely and effective assistance and to require the target of any investigation to contribute to the costs of the investigation, failing any of which, the target may be provisionally sanctioned.
Where there are reasonable grounds to believe that doping is occurring, WADA should have the right to make such a finding, upon which the onus should shift to the target to provide satisfactory evidence demonstrating its compliance with the World Anti-Doping Code.
Where there are reasonable grounds to suspect micro-dosing (the evidence of which can disappear within hours), WADA should be able to test on a 24/7/365 basis. If athletes appear to be knowingly missing tests, WADA should have the power to call for tests on, say, successive days, without elaborate notice of a missed test (three missed tests within a 12- or 18-month period is deemed equivalent to a positive test).
As well, WADA should be given the right to impose provisional sanctions, rather than simply to report on non-compliant conduct. All such decisions should be appealable to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, but without the provisional sanction being lifted pending the outcome of the appeal. Lawyers love to drag things out.
Whistle-blowers must be encouraged, protected and given recognition for their courage. In corruption situations, whistle-blowers, even if participants, are the best sources of information.
This is far from a comprehensive list, but such measures would demonstrate the IOC's re-dedication to doping-free sport and its championing of real-time measures that will increase the detection of doping and will provide some comfort for competing athletes – and the general public – that, starting now, the IOC does mean what it says.