LONDON: Four-time Olympic rowing champion Matthew Pinsent led a cacophony of British condemnation of the International Olympic Committee’s decision not to ban the whole Russian team from next month’s Rio Olympics.
There would have been little place for the IOC or its president Thomas Bach to hide with the brickbats they received, the IOC being described as “spineless” and Bach being labelled – among other things – “a Pontius Pilate figure”.
Pinsent said the IOC performed a “hospital pass” Sunday in asking sports federations to decide who from the Russian team could compete in Rio after the revelations of state-run doping directed from Moscow.
“IOC has passed the buck – pure and simple,” wrote the 45-year-old Pinsent in The Times, whilst fellow rowing Olympic legend James Cracknell said the IOC “bottled it”.
Defending Olympic long jump champion Greg Rutherford also weighed in.
“[The IOC’s decision] is a spineless attempt to appear as the nice guy to both sides,” the29-year-old told the Guardian newspaper.
Athletics’ world governing body, the IAAF, has banned the Russian track and field team from the Rio Games, which start in less than two weeks.
“Athletics set the right sentiment for a clean and believable sport,” said the outspoken Rutherford, who will defend his crown in Rio.
“We’re not there, we may never get there – I am still very unhappy that many convicted cheats continue to compete – but without a consequence for institutional-level actions how on earth do we expect to make any progress [on drug cheating]?”
Another set to compete in Brazil, oarsman Andrew Triggs Hodge, wrote in The Times he would find it hard to believe that he would be competing against clean athletes.
He could go up at the Olympics against three Russians who were part of a team disqualified when one of their number failed a dope test in July.
“Thomas Bach, the IOC president, has shown extraordinarily weak leadership,” wrote Triggs Hodge.
“This was a moment in his career when he could define himself as an anti-doping champion. It needs someone of character, principle and mind to drive the IOC forward and he has completely neglected that.”
There was widespread sympathy too for Russian whistleblower Yuliya Stepanova, who served a two year-ban for doping and was informed by the IOC on Sunday she would not be allowed to compete at the Games.
It was her disclosures about rampant Russian doping that sparked the scandal.
“The IOC has thanked her and offered her a trip to watch the Olympics in Rio,” wrote Pinsent. “Great. We’d love to invite you for dinner, but you can only smell the food,” he added sardonically.