Date: 29 Feb 2016, Science, Technology and Culture
Question setter: Mettletest Panellist

Russia and The Rio Olympics

Will Russia have a track and field athletics team at the Rio 2016 Olympics?


Answer: No
Confidence level: 22%
Mean confidence level (all requests): 45.00%

Russia's evident wholesale flouting of the drugs rules to win medals in the recent Olympics has seriously upset those competitors and nations who were robbed of places. Add to that the scrutiny that the IAAF is under since its own corruption and complicity was exposed and you are left with little chance that they will cave in this time. The new president, Seb Coe, and his committee will be hounded by other western national teams to hold his nerve and ensure that Russia is duly punished for its systematic abuse of the system.
Meanwhile Russia will do its utmost to give the impression it has reformed and use foreign agencies to conduct tests and instate credibility. The UK anti doping agency has already been enlisted. The Russians themselves seem convinced they will get back - Triple Jump champion (and doper) Koneva asked "How can you have the Olympics without Russia?" Many others on both sides of the divide wonder the same, so the outcome is not at all certain. The precedents are too rare to give an indication. On balance, the outrage if another sports scandal was just allowed to be glossed over would be too great for the IAAF to countenance.

Outcome: No
Score: 22
Mean score (all respondents): -9.00

Expert opinion:

Answer: Yes

Selected Expert Answer from Peter Bennett-Jones:
The suspension of the All Russian Athletics Federation in 2015 for state-sponsored doping was always likely to be short-lived. There is evidence to support this.

Araf accepted suspension without challenge and offered full co-operation to IAFF. No boycott was threatened. Sports Minister Mutko stated that the ‘problem is solvable’ and suspension ‘temporary’. IOC President Bach confirmed that Russia just needed to get its house in order for a return prior to Rio and is confident this will happen.

Russia has to demonstrate a commitment to reform and future compliance.

New Federation President Shlyakhtin was an outsider appointed to ‘restore trust’. Bans have been doled out to miscreant officials and athletes. IAAF’s Coe thanked him for his co-operation.

Russia’s task is to convince that it is compliant with WADA and IAFF regulations. Pound, author of the doping Report :“They've got to bite the bullet and…. get all this stuff done in time for Rio,". Mutkin agreed to rigorous external testing- “We are upset and want to return to World Athletics.” They have been brought to heel.

Russia, Winter Olympic and World Cup hosts, will be rehabilitated after the World Championships in March. All the bosses want this outcome – realpolitik prevails. Compliance indeed.

Answer: No

Selected Expert Answer from Derek Wyatt:
The Russian political culture under President Putin's second stint as its leader has permeated every nook and cranny including sport . It's been a genuflection to Stalin and a new Cold War.

His team bid and won the Winter Olympics in 2014 and the FIFA World Cup 2018 (perhaps with bungs). They have spent a small fortune showcasing Russia at a time when every citizen is suffering from high inflation, a currency no one cares for and a shortage of food. To cap it all her athletes have been a willing partner to a systematic drug regime to ensure success on the world stage. Much as they did between 1952 and 1992.

Does the IAAF under Seb Coe its new President have the balls to suspend them (and Kenya)? I doubt it but if it does there will be a global standing ovation.

Answer: Yes

Selected Expert Answer from Mettletest Panellist:
Russia will be desperate to overturn its ban for doping before the Olympics in August. They have already passed the drug testing baton to the UK anti doping agency,in a temporary agreement between UKAD and RUSADA. They will hope that this gives credibility to clean tests in enough of their athletics team to make a viable competitive entry. Enormous political pressure will be placed on the IAAF to rescind, using the influence of any Russian allies round the world who can influence the committee. The IAAF has shown poor resilience and corruption in the past, so may find it hard to resist.
Sebastian Coe, the new president should have the integrity to stand up to the political manoeuvering. He is more likely to be swayed if the majority of competing athletes demand Russia's return. Most competitors' voices, so far, have backed the ban, citing anger at losing out to cheats in the past. UK Athletics chairman Ed Warner has called for Russia not to be let back in. Some feel, however, than their successes in 2016 could be debased if one of the leading nations were absent. As national and individual attitudes shift in this direction the IAAF will seek excuses to reinstate Russia in time for the Olympics.

Outcome: No

Comment on outcome from Mettletest Panellist:
Remarkably, the IAAF appears to have stuck to its guns and all 68 Russian athletics athletes remain banned. Only long jumper Darya Klishina, based in the US, has been cleared to compete, reportedly under a neutral flag. Even the whistleblower, Yuliya Stepanova, will not join her in the games. Stepananova, who revealed the extent of Russian doping, fell foul of an IOC ban on Russians with previous drugs form. CAS declared this "unenforceable" but she has apparently ruled herself out at this late stage. Many other disciplines have accepted Russia, after the IOC left it up to individual sports federations to decide on admittance. Some 271 Russian athletes will perform in teams from aquatics to volleyball. Athletics and weightlifting are facing total bans for Russia.