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IOC Backtracks on Part of IAAF Decision; No Russian ‘Neutral’ Athletes in Rio

“We have come to a unanimous declaration,” International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach said in Lausanne, Switzerland, on Tuesday after an Olympic Summit which convened heads of international federations in the Olympic movement. “All the stakeholders have come to the unanimous declaration … the Summit confirmed their respect and approval and support for the decision having been taken by IAAF last Friday.”

That decision, by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), would have nearly completely barred Russian track and field athletes from competing at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Russian athletics have been embroiled in a doping scandal. The international federation decided that only those athletes which could individually prove — “clearly and convincingly” — that they had not doped, for instance because they were living outside of Russia and had been repeatedly tested by an accredited and respected antidoping agency, could compete.

And notably, the IAAF said that if any athletes met their stringent criteria, they would not be competing for Russia but instead as neutral athletes. That meant that even if they had success, there would never be a Russian gold medal in track and field from Rio.

While reiterating time and time again that the IOC had supported the IAAF’s decision, President Bach backtracked on that last decision, saying that if any Russian athletes went to Rio for track and field, that they would have to compete under the Russian flag.

His assertion was that there is no such thing as a neutral athlete. However, in the past athletes have competed under the Olympic flag. In London 2012, for instance, Guar Marial, a Sudanese runner who fled to Concord, N.H., as a child but never achieved citizenship and did not wish to compete for Sudan, competed under the Olympic flag.

So did three athletes from the Netherlands Antilles, a group of islands which formerly had their own Olympic Committee but lost it when the country dissolved in 2010. In 2014, an Indian luger competed under the Olympic flag in Sochi after the Indian Olympic Committee was suspended by the IOC. Back in 2000, athletes from East Timor did the same thing when their country gained independence from Indonesia and did not yet have the infrastructure to support an Olympic Committee.

Such political issues were the only reasons an athlete should compete under the Olympic flag, Bach suggested, stating that since the Russian Olympic Committee was in good standing, all Russian athletes at the Games should compete for that organization.

“The Summit also recognized, after having studied and being informed of the [IAAF] Task Force report, that the Russian Olympic Committee is mentioned in a very positive way for their work,” he said.

However, the summit also called for greater scrutiny of Russian athletes outside of track and field, as well as of athletes from Kenya, a country which has been declared noncompliant by the World Anti-Doping Agency.

While the IAAF had announced its own intentions to carefully vet each potential Russian participant, the IOC Summit called on other international federations to essentially develop similar procedures.

“Because of the WADA non-compliance declaration of Kenya and Russia and the related substantial allegations, the Olympic Summit considers the ‘presumption of innocence’ of athletes from these countries being put seriously into question,” the declaration stated. “As a result, every IF [international federation] should take a decision on the eligibility of such athletes on an individual basis to ensure a level playing field in their sport. In this decision-making process, the absence of a positive national anti-doping test should not be considered sufficient by the IFs. This means that the respective IF should take into account other reliable adequate testing systems in addition to national anti-doping testing. This decision about the ‘level playing field’ in each of their very different Olympic sports, and eligibility, including of their member National Federations, should be taken by each IF taking into account all the specific circumstances in the relevant National Federations, any available evidence, the World Anti-Doping Code and the specific rules of their sport.”

June 12 Roundup: Norway’s Quota Decreased; 2021 World Champs in Oberstdorf

–The International Ski Federation (FIS) released the competition calendar for the 2016/2017 ski season. Nordic will open in Ruka, Finland, followed by three events in Lillehammer, Norway and one competition in Davos, Switzerland prior to the new year. World Championships will be held in Lahti, Finland. For the complete schedule, click here. — Norwegians cut down the number of World Cup skiers they field? Although not by choice, Norway and other nordic powerhouse countries must decrease the quota of athletes they are permitted to enter in an individual competition during the upcoming race season. To level the playing field, the International Ski Federation (FIS) decided to limit the number of athletes each nation can field per race to six, according to a decision made last Wednesday at the FIS Congress in Cancun, Mexico. Previously, nations such as Norway were allowed to enter up to eight athletes for individual competitions (and more for relays). With the…

New Documentary Alleges Russian Interference with FIS, IBU Anti-Doping Efforts (Updated)

A new documentary by German journalist Hajo Seppelt aired on ARD last night, alleging further involvement of Russian officials in hampering anti-doping efforts. While one of the biggest news items was that Russian Minister of Sport Vitaly Mutko was personally implicated in hiding a positive doping test by a soccer player, nordic sports were directly mentioned for one of the first times in Seppelt’s work. Specifically, RUSADA allegedly warned head coaches and athletes ahead of doping controls ordered by the International Ski Federation (FIS) and the International Biathlon Union (IBU). FasterSkier has reached out to the federations for comment. The documentary is available here in German and here in English.

June 5 Roundup: Norwegians Weigh In on No-DP Zones; No Poker for Northug

— With the resignation of Egil Kristiansen from the head coaching position for the women’s Norwegian National Team in late April, Roar Hjelmeset has signed on as the new women’s head coach as of Tuesday, May 31. Hjelmeset previously served as the Norwegian women’s sprint coach since 2011, working with athletes such as Marit Bjørgen, Ingvild Flugstad Østberg and Maiken Caspersen Falla, among others. “He burns for his job and is a born coach,” Bjørgen said to Sporten.com, according to a translation. The 38-year-old Hjelmeset has signed on for next season, as well as the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeong Chang, South Korea. — Snorkeling and beach lounging is not the only thing going on in Cancun, Mexico, this year. The 50th International Ski Federation (FIS) Congress is set to take place in the heart of the Yucatán Peninsula, starting this Sunday, June 5, and running until Saturday, June 11. It is estimated…

May 29 Roundup: Kershaw with Team Telemark, Østberg in Ethopia, and Ski Classics Calendar

— Canadian World Cup A-Team member Devon Kershaw has a few training transitions in line this season, one of them being his decision to work with Team Telemark. A newly founded Norwegian cross-country training group, Team Telemark lists 10 other members beyond Kershaw, including the U23 bronze medalist, Mikael Gunnulfsen. “I’ve trained a lot with Norwegian runners, but never been on such a team. It’s going to be exciting,” Kershaw told Telemarksavisa, according to a translation. — Team Telemark’s claim to fame doesn’t end there. Former Norwegian skiing superstar, Kristin Størmer Steira plans to coach the women’s team, while her husband, Kershaw, races for the men. She plans to work with several Norwegian up-and-comers, including Mari Eide, Kari Vikhagen Gjeitnes, and Silje Øyre Slinde. She will work alongside former Norwegian national athlete, Ella Gjømle Berg. “There are girls here who can compete in the world. I want to help them to get out their maximum…

It’s A Boy! Randall and Ellis Welcome Baby Breck

Kikkan Randall has broken down a lot of barriers for the U.S. Nordic Ski Team women’s team. Most involved podiums. On Thursday, April 14, she became a first-time parent — another first among her teammates.  Randall and her husband, Jeff Ellis, celebrated the birth of their baby boy, Breck Stuart Randall Ellis. “Jeff and I are overwhelmed with love and happiness as we welcomed Breck Stuart Randall Ellis into the world last night,” Randall posted along with a photo of the newborn on Instagram. “8lbs 11oz and 21 [inches]. He’s already a happy, healthy and strong boy!” When the four-time Olympian announced her pregnancy last October, she also indicated her plan to compete in the 2016/2017 ski season, as well as the 2018 Olympics.

Russian Cross-Country Skier Tests Positive for Meldonium

A Russian cross-country skier who placed in the top 30 at Russian nationals last weekend, Kirill Vitsjuzjanin, has tested positive for the banned substance meldonium. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) prohibited use of the drug, a metabolic modulator, starting Jan. 1, 2016. Vitsjuzjanin, 23, apparently took meldonium last September based on a prescription from his doctor, Langrenn reports. His father and trainer Petr Vitsjuzjanin said that his son used the substance last year, before it was banned. Earlier this year, he passed a doping test but a sample taken in March was found positive for the substance. “I am shocked,” his father said. “The situation is embarrassing for me.” Vitsjuzjanin has never competed in a World Cup, but placed 22nd and 27th at Russian nationals last weekend in Tyumen. Several Russian athletes have also tested positive for the banned substance, including tennis star Maria Sharapova and skate printer Pavel Kulizjnikov….

A Week After Junior Worlds, Kern Reaches Alpen Cup Podium

There is still racing happening in Europe, and Julia Kern reached the podium last weekend at the Alpen Cup in Germany a very big way. For starters, she was the third junior woman in the 15-kilometer freestyle mass start — the longest race she had ever done — last Sunday. As U.S. Ski Team Development Coach and trip leader Bryan Fish pointed out, she would have been 15th among the senior women that day in Arber, Germany. “In the past, long distances have been my weakness and even the thought of a 15km would be daunting, however to my surprise this year I have found most of my best races have been in distance races,” Kern, 18, wrote in an email on Sunday. “I think I had a particularly good race today because I absolutely love mass starts and I was fired up to stick with the leaders for as…

Appeals Committee Reinstates Four Norwegian Relay Teams from National Championships

After the national championship relay in Tromsø, 15 men’s teams were slapped with three-minute penalties for skating in the classic portion of the race. The race jury published video of the technique infractions and said that they were aiming to be strict in enforcing the rules on classic technique. Four teams appealed the decision, and the Appeals Committee recently agreed with them, saying that since there was no classic track on the section of the course in question, the skiers were allowed to push off of their skis instead of double-poling. Thus the time penalties were removed for those four teams. The decision is available (in Norwegian) here. According to John Aalberg, who was the Technical Delegate for the competitions and had been part of the six-member group who decided to penalize the 15 teams, the decision not to set tracks had been because on a steep uphill, the tracks would…

Rottefella Files Suit Against Amer Sport, Claims Illegal Copyright of NNN System

The binding wars continue. As noted in a FasterSkier article on on Dec. 31, Amer Sports, the holding company for Atomic and Salomon, plans to release NNN-compatible boots and bindings using what they are calling the Prolink system. Ski-lines.com linked to an article on Jan. 6, originally posted on e24.no, explaining that Rottefella is filing suit against Amer Sport. Rottefella is the original patent holder of the NNN system and the more modern NIS system. In Ski-Lines.com’s translation of the article, which was originally written in Norwegian, they claim Rottefella believes the Prolink system, “is illegally copying Rottefella, who owns the NNN binding system, which includes everything from the tread of boots to the mounting plate on the skis.” E24 reports that Rottefella’s lawyer, Halvor Haug Mans, says Amer Sports is violating intellectual property rights and a Marketing Act, “against copied products.” According to E24, Rottefella, in its complaint, has given Amer…