Russia reacts after former WADA investigator questions current bans

Canadian sports lawyer Richard McLaren has taken issue with the anti-Russian suspensions, according to German media
Russia reacts after former WADA investigator questions current bans

Figures in Russian sport have welcomed comments from World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) investigator Richard McLaren, who was quoted by the German media as criticizing the current bans on Russian athletes. However, some Russian officials have cautioned that the remarks will mean little unless matched by the likes of International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach.

Canadian sports lawyer McLaren was the main figure appointed by WADA to investigate claims of Russian state-spored doping following the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, with his probe resulting in widespread sporting sanctions against the country, despite Russia vehemently denying the allegations.

But When asked about the current blanket bans applied to Russian and Belarusian athletes at the IOC’s behest because of the conflict in Ukraine, McLaren struck a different tone, according to German outlet Sportschau.

The outlet quoted McLaren, 77, as saying that sidelining sports stars from Russia and Belarus was unfair because the athletes themselves were neither responsible for the initiation of the conflict nor able to influence its course.

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Sportschau noted that McLaren’s stance may be considered surprising, given that he previously helped pave the way for anti-Russian sporting sanctions.

Russian sporting figures have said the comments are welcome news – although some doubted they would resonate among others linked to WADA, the IOC and elsewhere.

Iconic figure skating coach Tatiana Tarasova called it “very nice” that McLaren would make the remarks, adding: “Perhaps they began to understand that competitions without Russian athletes are not the same.”

“But I don’t know how his comrades will react to this statement,” added the veteran trainer.

The president of the Russian Tennis Federation, Shamil Tarpischev, noted that plenty of damage had already been done – even in a sport such as tennis, where players can compete under neutral status as individuals on the ATP and WTA tours, while being banned from team competitions.

“The further we go, the more such statements [as McLaren’s will be]. Enlightenment must come,” said Tarpischev, as quoted by TASS.

“I am grateful to the ATP and the WTA for supporting us. We suffered the least. In tennis if you’ve missed half a year, then you won’t catch up. We need three years in the Davis Cup to return to the top division.”

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Tarpischev’s counterpart at the Russian Wresting Federation, Mikhail Mamiashvili, said McLaren had at least shown courage – in spite of his previous actions leading to Russian sporting bans.

“Here, nobody even gives us a chance to prove anything. And McLaren’s statement is so obvious. I must say that he is quite a brave person,” said Mamiashvili, according to RIA Sport.

Svetlana Zhurova, a former Olympic speed skating champion who is now a Russian State Duma Deputy, said McLaren was at odds with the likes of IOC official and former WADA president Craig Reedie.

Reedie recently suggested that Russian athletes could be forced to miss the 2024 Paris Olympics because they are not cleared in time for qualifying events.

“Everything is divided between them, Reedie says one thing – ban and not let [them compete], McLaren – another,” said Zhurova.

“Unfortunately, I am afraid that no one in the West will pay attention to the opinion McLaren, but if Bach said this, it would be a different matter.”

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Russian honorary IOC member Vitaly Smirnov said McLaren had made the comments “sincerely” and without any duplicity.

“This should be seen as a process of sobering up. I hope that similar statements will follow from other functionaries,” Smirnov told Match TV.

“Without the participation of athletes from Russia, one of the leading powers in the world, it is impossible to consider the best results in many sports. Surely McLaren understands the damage all this brings to world sport,” he added.

The IOC first recommended on February 28 that global sports federations ban Russian and Belarusian athletes from competitions wherever possible because of the conflict in Ukraine.

IOC chief Bach has accused Russia of breaching the ‘Olympic Truce’ by launching its campaign in Ukraine between the Beijing Winter Olympics and Paralympics.

Bach has also partly defended the recommendation to sideline Russian athletes by claiming this protects them from supposed hostility they would face outside their homeland.

The IOC’s stance has caused Russian athletes and teams to miss a host of major events, including qualification playoffs for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar and the World Athletics Championships in the USA last month.

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