Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Support NHPR's local journalism that brings clarity, context, and community!

World Anti-Doping Agency Finds Russia Endorsed Athletes Cheating


The International Olympic Committee has announced some stiff penalties for Russia in the midst of a sport doping scandal. NPR's Corey Flintoff joins us now from Moscow to talk about what we know so far. Welcome.

COREY FLINTOFF, BYLINE: Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: OK. The IOC - this, we know so far, has taken the step that some sport organizations have been demanding. That is, it's actually banning Russia's entire Olympic team from competing in Rio. Or has it, rather? - I should say.

FLINTOFF: Well, they haven't gone that far yet, Renee. They say they're checking their legal options, apparently to find out whether they have the authority to ban an entire team. And that'll defend, in part, on the International Court of Arbitration for Sport. That court is considering an appeal by more than 60 Russian track-and-field athletes who've already been banned, and it's expected to make a decision on Thursday.

Those athletes say they haven't used performance-enhancing drugs, so they should be allowed to compete. And the IOC recognized that. In the statement, it said it'll consider this as a case of putting a collective ban on all Russian athletes versus the right to individual justice.

MONTAGNE: Well, the head of the IOC says, if the allegations are confirmed that Russia really did operate at a state-sponsored doping program for its athletes, the IOC will take the strictest possible measures against Russia. So, I mean, you know, what would be the next step here?

FLINTOFF: Well, so far, the IOC says it has ordered immediate retesting of all Russian athletes who took part in the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi. And that's because the latest independent investigator reported yesterday that he confirmed these allegations that Russian government officials actually helped athletes cheat and covered up their positive drug tests. So a retest could result in Russian winter sports athletes being banned and losing medals.

The IOC also says all international winter sports federations, Olympic federations, have to freeze any plans for holding major events in Russia. And maybe the most devastating thing here is that the committee said it won't give support to the European Games that were scheduled to be held in Russia in 2019. And that would be a huge loss of prestige.

MONTAGNE: And how is that likely to go over with Russian officials?

FLINTOFF: Well, basically...

MONTAGNE: Not well, I'm sure.

FLINTOFF: No (laughter). Based on what they've said recently, not well at all. President Putin made a statement yesterday where he basically dismissed the allegations. And he called this a so-called doping scandal. He said it was politically motivated, designed to make Russia look bad. And of course, the implication there is that this whole controversy was stirred up by the United States.

MONTAGNE: All right. NPR's Corey Flintoff in Moscow, thank you very much.

FLINTOFF: Thank you, Renee. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

You make NHPR possible.

NHPR is nonprofit and independent. We rely on readers like you to support the local, national, and international coverage on this website. Your support makes this news available to everyone.

Give today. A monthly donation of $5 makes a real difference.