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article imageIOC chief Bach urges total review of world anti-doping system

By Talek Harris (AFP)     Aug 2, 2016 in World

Olympics chief Thomas Bach called for a complete overhaul of the global anti-doping system on Tuesday after revelations of state-backed cheating by Russia rocked preparations for the Rio Games.

In a bullish address in Rio, Bach said the uncovering of Russia's widespread doping had shown up deficiencies in the current system run by the World Anti-Doping Agency.

"Recent developments have shown that we need a full review of the WADA anti-doping system," Bach told an International Olympic Committee (IOC) session, three days before the Rio Games open on Friday.

"The IOC is calling for a more robust and efficient anti-doping system," he added. "This requires clear responsibilities, more transparency, more independence and better worldwide harmonisation."

Bach's forthright condemnation of WADA escalates the public feud between the Olympics and anti-doping bodies which has broken out in the final days before the Rio Games.

It follows last month's report by Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren for WADA, which said Russia's sports ministry and secret services evaded drug testers by switching samples at Russian laboratories.

The IOC then came under fire after it stopped short of banning Russia completely from Rio, but instead left it to individual sports to take action against athletes from the country.

- 'Nuclear option' -

Bach blasted an outright ban on Russia as a "nuclear option", adding: "Let us just for a moment consider the consequences of a 'nuclear option'.

"The result is death and devastation. This is not what the Olympic movement stands for."

WADA president Craig Reedie, who is a vice-president of the IOC and was sitting close to Bach during his address, chose not to give an immediate response to the comments.

Reedie's WADA had led calls for Russia to be expelled from Rio, a stance that was backed by several national anti-doping agencies.

Russia's athletics team has already been barred in a separate doping scandal, and at least 117 of Russia's original Olympic contingent of 387 have also been excluded over drugs concerns.

Many have taken their cases to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, including 17 rowers and the Russian weightlifting federation, with the country's eventual contingent still unclear.

Alexander Zhukov, president of the Russian Olympic Committee, blasted "discrimination" against athletes who have been banned as a result of the McLaren report, despite not failing drugs tests.

"To those who crave collective disqualification for Russia, taking into account ruined fates and broke lives of innocent athletes, I fully agree with the position of president Bach that each individual must have at least the opportunity to prove their innocence," he told the session.

"Some international federations... have now confirmed this fact: most of them do not have any reason not to admit Russian team and athletes," Zhukov added.

Argentina's Gerardo Werthein also hit out at WADA's "failure to investigate serious and credible allegations more swiftly" as IOC members rounded on the anti-doping body.

Concerns over state-backed doping in Russia were first reported in 2014, although WADA says the first concrete evidence only surfaced in May this year.

"It saddens me to say this, but at times WADA has seemed to be more interested in publicity and self-promotion rather than doing its job as a regulator, acting with transparency, and looking after the best interest of clean athletes," Werthein said.

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