Double Paralympic gold medallist Mark Rohan backs decision to ban Russia from Rio
The announcement that the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) would prevent Russian athletes from taking part in the 2016 Rio Paralympics was met with huge support from sport fans around the world.
The decision came just days after the International Olympic Committee was criticised for their decision to not expel Russian athletes but instead allow national federations to take responsibility for banning athletes ahead of the Olympics.
The IPC’s decision means that almost 270 Russian athletes will watch the Games from home, with many missing the chance to defend the titles they won at London 2012. The Russian Paralympic Committee has since appealed the ruling.
But why are the IPC taking such a strong stance? Giving his thoughts on the decision, two-time Paralympic gold medallist Mark Rohan, who’s recently finished studying at UCFB partner Real Madrid Graduate School – Universidad Europea, said: “The IPC feel that they need to protect the integrity of the sport and they have wisely, in my opinion, placed the blame at the feet of the Russian state-run doping system.”
IPC President Sir Philip Craven was praised by many for his tough stance. Upon banning athletes from Russia competing in Rio, he said: “Tragically this situation is not about athletes cheating a system, but about a state-run system that is cheating the athletes.”
The investigation into allegations that Russia had a state-run doping programme led to the McLaren report that was published in July. The report, commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency, claims to have uncovered a James Bond-esque level of complexity in the doping programme as well as cooperation of the athletes to help its cover up in competitions from 2011 to 2015, including the London 2012 and Sochi 2014 Games.
The report resulted in the IPC being left with no alternative but to ban Russia from the Rio Games.
Among the allegations in the report were:
– 45 samples belonging to 44 athletes were tested in the investigation and all had been tampered with after the samples were closed and prepared for testing.
– Various samples with positive results went unreported by the now suspended Russian Deputy Sports Minister Yury Nagornykh.
– At the Sochi 2014 Winter Games athletes gave clean samples out of competition, and when tested in competition the sample containing positive tests were swapped for clean samples by insiders who had access to the independent lab.
Mark, who won gold for Ireland at London 2012 in the H1 road race and H1 road time-trial, said that though he sympathises with the clean Russian athletes who’ll be missing out in Rio, it’s vital that the IPC protect the integrity of the Paralympic Games.
He said: “From an athlete’s perspective, I found the scale of the cheating a bit sickening to be honest, and I can only applaud the IPC for taking such a stance to enforce such a strict ban. Russia currently sit fifth in the Olympic medal table with 44 medals (correct as of August 19th). I can’t imagine how some of the fourth place finishers in those particular events must be feeling right now, and I wonder what the long term impact will have on their careers.”
Mark added: “What about the Russian athletes that are clean? Knowing one Russian athlete that has lived and studied in Germany for the last few years it is hard for me not to feel sorry for her right now. I’m confident that she hasn’t benefited from the state-run doping programme. I’m sure all 267 athletes are very angry and disappointed, but they should direct their anger at the Russian sporting authorities and not the IPC.
“The IPC have to protect the remaining 3,700 athletes that will compete in Rio and also Paralympic sport on a global scale – around 100,000 athletes take part every year in various world championships. It would be stupid to suggest that Russian athletes are the only ones to cross the line when it comes to using performance enhancing drugs, but at least we know that the Rio Paralympic Games will be fairer for all competing with the expulsion of Russian athletes.”
Mark went on to say high performance sport is a results based business and from his experience in the lead up to London knows that most of the financial benefits come after winning medals.
He said: “Predominantly contracts and partnerships are based on medals and results – the better the result the better the win bonus. Not only are the athletes’ earnings effected but also their agents’. Normally an agent will receive anywhere between 10-20% of the contract they negotiated between the athlete and the sponsor.”
Mark finished: “On a happier note, I can’t help but feel excited and thrilled for the 267 athletes that will now replace the 267 banned Russians. The disappointment and rejection they would’ve felt when told they wouldn’t be going will now be replaced by joy and pride as they prepare to take part in a special global event that will celebrate sport, equality and life.”