JOHANNESBURG — Kirsty Coventry, chairperson of the International Olympic Committee’s Athletes’ Commission, yesterday said she supported the lifting of the ban on Russia’s anti-doping agency, Rusada, despite widespread dismay over this week’s World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) decision.
Coventry, the newly appointed Zimbabwe Sports minister, said she saw it as a positive decision, which would allow “for greater transparency through increased testing and access to their labs and data by December of this year”.
“I believe our mandate is to protect all clean athletes and I believe there are clean Russian athletes,”she said in a statement.
“Blanket punishment is unfair to those who compete cleanly and even if there is only one clean Russian athlete, that athlete has the right to be protected. Assuming that every Russian athlete cheats is simply unjust.”
Wada’s decision to lift the ban has been widely condemned with Coventry among the rare voices of support.
Coventry, who won swimming gold for Zimbabwe at the 2004 and 2008 Olympic Games, said the lifting of the ban will allow Wada to get the data necessary to prosecute athletes who take performance-enhancing drugs.
The commission she chairs is designed to be the athletes’ link in the decision-making process of the Olympic body.
The ban on Rusada was lifted on Thursday, although the change will have no immediate effect on current bans on the Russian federations for athletics, weightlifting and Paralympics.
But it does opens the door for their return, following the reinstatement of the Russian Olympic Committee after the country was banned from this year’s Winter Games in South Korea.
Rusada was suspended almost three years ago after an independent Wada report carried out by Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren outlined evidence of massive state-backed, systematic doping and cover-ups in Russian sport. — Reuters