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Russia Cleared to Compete In Rio (Sort of)

After a special IOC conference to discuss IAAF’s ban of Russia from international competition, statements were issued, but little actually changed.

13th IAAF World Athletics Championships Daegu 2011 - Day Seven Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Bongarts/Getty Images

This morning, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) convened a special meeting to discuss the IAAF’s recommendation that any Russian athletes cleared of doping allegation compete under country-neutral colors. The IOC’s response was, basically, to tell the IAAF to back off. From the official statement produced after the conference:

[The Summit agreed] to fully respect the decision of the IAAF Council with regard to the specific situation of track and field in Russia as outlined in the report and recommendations of the IAAF Task Force.

And, at the same time, this from Thomas Bach, President of the IOC:

If there are athletes qualified then they will compete as members of the team of the Russian Olympic Committee because only a national Olympic committee can enter athletes to the Olympic Games. Contrary to the national federation of track and field, the Russian Olympic Committee is not suspended.

So, “respect the decision of the IAAF” basically means that the IOC will not attempt to tell the Diamond League and other IAAF competitions that they have to let Russian athletes compete, but, for the purposes of the Olympics, the IOC doesn’t really care that much about what the IAAF has to say.

But, those rules that only national Olympic committees can enter athletes in the Olympics can be changed, and it’s expected that the IAAF will continue to push for such changes. Even without those changes, the IOC seems committed to keeping Russians out of the games. They mention in their statement that the “presumption of innocence” afforded to all athletes is no longer automatic for Russia and that the absence of evidence should not be considered evidence of absence.

So, really, there’s not much to see here. The IOC is not changing their rules, but they are holding specific countries to stricter standards that are vague enough for them to justify excluding from Rio basically any and every athlete from Russia and Kenya that they want to.