The president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Thomas Bach, went on the offensive during a debate lasting more than two hours on the first day of the IOC’s general assembly in Rio de Janeiro.
A simmering row between the IOC and WADA over doping, ahead of the Rio Olympics, has broken out in earnest. Meanwhile, IOC members backed the decision not to impose a blanket ban on Russian athletes for the Rio Games.
Facing widespread criticism over the IOC board’s decision not to impose a blanket ban on Russian athletes from competing in Rio after doping allegations, Bach opened the meeting by putting the move to a vote by the organization’s members. The 85 delegates backed the decision by a vote of 84-1.
“Recent developments have shown that we need a full review of the WADA anti-doping system,” Bach said. “The IOC is calling for a more robust and efficient anti-doping system. This requires clear responsibilities, more transparency, more independence and better worldwide harmonization.”
Bach also denied that the IOC bore any responsibility for the doping controversy that is threatening to overshadow the Rio Games, which officially begin with Friday’s opening ceremony.
Some delegates accused WADA of failing to act swiftly enough on the information of Russian middle-distance runner Yulia Stepanova, who provided information to German public broadcaster ARD, whose documentaries led to the scandal. The IOC has barred Stepanova from competing in Rio.
WADA President Craig Reedie, who is also an IOC vice president, defended his organization’s actions, saying that it had acted as soon as concrete facts were available. However, he also conceded that there was room for improvement.
“I like to believe all of the system is not broken,” Reedie said. “Part of the system is broken. We should start trying to identify those parts that need attention.”