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The Russian Ballet at the CAS Ad Hoc Division in Rio - Act IV: On Bringing a sport into disrepute

Editor's note: This is the fourth part/act of our blog series on the Russian eligibility cases at the CAS ad hoc Division in Rio.


Act IV: On Bringing a sport into disrepute

Paragraph 2 of the IOC Decision: “The IFs will also have to apply their respective rules in relation to the sanctioning of entire NFs.” 

 

In paragraph 2 of its Decision, the IOC mentioned the possibility for IFs to “apply their respective rules in relation to the sanctioning of entire NF's”.This is exactly what the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) did when it decided on 29 July 2016 to exclude the whole Russian Weightlifting Federation (RWF) from the Rio Olympics for having brought the sport into disrepute. Indeed, Article 12. 4 of the IWF Anti-doping Policy, foresees that:

“If any Member federation or members or officials thereof, by reason of conduct connected with or associated with doping or anti-doping rule violations, brings the sport of weightlifting into disrepute, the IWF Executive Board may, in its discretion, take such action as it deems fit to protect the reputation and integrity of the sport.”

The Russian Federation first disputed, to no avail, that there was sufficient legal basis in the IWF regulations for such a blanket ban. The Panel found that “Article 12.4 ADP constitutes a sufficient legal basis”.[1] Moreover, it added that the “power of the IWF Executive Board, in its discretion, to take such action as it deems fit to protect the reputation and integrity of the sport, was not challenged by RWF”.[2]

There were subsequently two main questions related to application of Article 12.4 ADP to be discussed:

  • Based on the information available, could the IWF reasonably conclude that there was a “conduct connected with or associated with doping”?
  • And, was it sufficient to “bring the sport of weightlifting into disrepute”?

First, the CAS Panel notes that in assessing whether there was a “conduct connected with or associated with doping”, IWF “referred to various sources of information”.[3] It relied on the IP Report that “submits that 117 Russian weightlifters were included in this centrally dictated program”[4] and “on the results from the retesting of the London and Beijing Olympics”[5], which “turned out nine AAFs for Russian weightlifters”.[6] The Panel held that this “information constitutes "conduct connected with or associated with doping"” that “on its face is sufficiently reliable”.[7] Indeed, it reminds that the IP Report applied a standard of proof of “beyond reasonable doubt”. Furthermore, the Panel adds that “the findings of the McLaren Report were taken seriously by the IOC and lead to the IOC Executive Board's decision dated 24 July 216 that enacted eligibility criteria specifically for Russian athletes, which is unique in the history of the Olympic Games”[8] and “were endorsed by WADA, the supreme authority in the world of sport to lead and coordinate the fight against doping and by other international federations, such as the IAAF”.[9] Finally, “the information contained in the Mclaren Report is also corroborated by the reanalysis of the athlete's samples at the London and Beijing Olympics”.[10] The fact that all nine Russian athletes retested were all positive for the same substance, Turniabol, is deemed “a strong indication that they were part of a centrally dictated program”.[11]

Are these findings enough to bring weightlifting into disrepute? For the Panel, disrepute “refers to loss of reputation or dishonour”.[12] It concluded that “the IWF's conclusion that the above facts bring the sport of weightlifting in disrepute is neither incompatible with the applicable provisions nor arbitrary”.[13] The Russian doping scandal is “one of the biggest doping scandals in sports history”, and “paired with the findings from the retesting of samples led the IWF to consider that the actions of the RWF and the Russian weightlifters brought the sport of weightlifting into disrepute, because it draws a picture of this sport as being doping infested”.[14] Thus, the CAS arbitrators consider that “the Applicant has failed to demonstrate that the IWF's conclusion that, based on the evidence before it, the conduct of the RWF brought the sport of weightlifting in disrepute, was unreasonable”.[15]

Lastly, the RWF brought forward the much-used ‘we were not the only ones!’ argument. Indeed, it highlighted that the “retesting of the London and Beijing samples has not only resulted in AAFs [Adverse Analytical Findings or positive doping test] for Russian athletes, but also revealed AAFs for other member federations”.[16] Yet, the Panel rebuked this argument by stating “that the situation in Russian weightlifting is - apparently - of a different dimension”, as it “has not been reported nor submitted that other member federations are involved in a centrally dictated and managed doping program”.[17] In this regard, it notes “the impressive number of 61 Russian weightlifters benefitted from the Disappearing Positive Methodology” and the fact “that the whole Russian delegation for the London Olympics was - according to the information provided - involved in doping”.[18]

Once again, an IF taking a strong stance and barring the whole Russian team to participate in the Rio Olympics is vindicated by the CAS.


[1] CAS OG 16/09 RWF v. IWF, para. 7.5.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid., para. 7.10.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid., para. 7.11.

[8] Ibid., para. 7.12.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid., para. 7.13.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid., para. 7.14.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Ibid.

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