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NEWS FEATURE IOC chief Bach under pressure over Russia doping report By Andreas Schirmer, dpa

Europe
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International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach is facing his most difficult decision: Will he be tough and exclude Russia from the Olympic Games in Rio? A ruling on Thursday by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) could point the way for the Olympic movement.

Dusseldorf (dpa) - International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach became 1976 Olympic fencing champion with the fine foil, which was always been his weapon in the political sports arenas of the world as well.

Now, in the tricky case of an Olympic exclusion of Russia, he will need the more cutting thrust of the sabre.

The pressure is mounting on Bach to act after a damning report on state-run doping in Russia by the World Anti-Doping Agency‘s independent person Richard McLaren.

According to Dagmar Freitag, the head Germany‘s parliamentary sports committee, it‘s time for Bach to follow up words about zero tolerance on doping with deeds.

"We now need a president of the International Olympic Committee who meets his leadership role and shows strength of leadership," Dagmar Freitag told dpa.

The IOC has deferred making a decision on whether to impose a blanket ban on Russian athletes for the August 5-21 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

It is studying the McLaren report, which revealed how positive tests were made to disappear with the connivance of the sports ministry, intelligence service and other officials, and how urine samples were swapped and tampered with at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games.

The IOC executive board said in reaction Tuesday it would explore the "legal options" for a complete ban on Russian athletes at the Rio Games.

The IOC is also waiting for Thursday‘s ruling by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) on the eligibility of 68 Russian athletes who have appealed to compete in Rio following the suspension of the Russian athletics federation by athletics ruling body IAAF.

McLaren‘s report showed that not only Sochi 2014 was affected by the cheating; it ran to other events including the 2013 athletics world championships in Moscow.

Freitag said it was now up to Bach to lead the way "and set out an approach for which he is prepared to fight for a majority on the IOC executive board."

So far, it has looked as if the 62-year-old IOC chief sought been seeking a way to avoid a complete exclusion of Russia from the XXXI Games around the Sugarloaf.

Let the international sports associations decide on the start rights of athletes or Russian sports federations, has been his maxim.

But Freitag said: "He can‘t keep waiting for what the associations do, what CAS does."

As a young fencer, Bach experienced and suffered the boycott of the 1980 Games in Moscow. Therefore, he knows that a new Cold War in sport would affect athletes first and foremost.

Nevertheless, he insists the IOC "will not hesitate to take the toughest sanctions available against any individual or organisation implicated."

First of all though, the IOC lawyers have to explore what legal options there are for a blanket exclusion of Russian athletes for the Olympics and how this is also compatible with athletes‘ individual rights.

Or is Bach being considerate of Russia because he maintains good relations with President Vladimir Putin?

Freitag sees it so: "It‘s about saving the Olympic idea from decay. Personal feelings or friendly relations must take a back seat. Sport has been at the crossroads for a long time, but today it is on the brink."

The head of the German athletics federation also believes it is the duty of the IOC and its president to send out a message.

"In the field of international sports policy, it is the biggest challenge for the IOC and Bach," Clemens Prokop said of the Russia case.

"The IOC must now show a clear position. It is also about the credibility of the Olympic Games."

Corruption expert Sylvia Schenk from Transparency International favours an Olympic exclusion for Russia, but also says that any such decision cannot be the last word.

"You can make an example like this, also because the pressure is so great, but you cannot then carry on as usual," the former athletes said.

"The whole anti-doping system has to be put to the test,"

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