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NEWS FEATURE Olympians face crucial decision on Russian participation in Rio By Andreas Schirmer, dpa

Europe
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The IOC executive board holds a conference call Sunday to decide on Russian participation at the Rio Olympics - with legal matters the key for any kind of decision relating to allegations of widespread and state-organized doping in the country.

Dusseldorf (dpa) - The executive board of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is readying itself for a crucial conference call on Sunday to decide whether to exclude all Russian athletes from the upcoming Rio de Janeiro Games.

An IOC spokesman confirmed the conference call on Saturday but did not want to say whether the outcome would be published Monday or Tuesday.

The IOC said earlier in the week it would announce its decision on Tuesday at the latest, just 10 days before the opening ceremony of the August 5-21 Olympics in Brazil.

Olympians must decide whether Russia‘s national Olympic Committee can be suspended after a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) report by its investigator Richard McLaren spoke of widespread and state-organized doping in various Russian sports.

The report also spoke of manipulation of doping test samples from Russian athletes during the Winter Olympics 2014 in Sochi, Russia.

So far only Russia‘s athletics team is banned from Rio as the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) on Thursday confirmed a suspension of the Russian athletics federation by the sport‘s ruling body IAAF, and the IAAF‘s rejection of applications by 67 Russian athletes to compete in Rio as neutral athletes.

The CAS stressed the ruling only applied for athletics and that it could not say what would happen if the Russian Olympic Committee nominated track and field athletes directly to the IOC which was not part of the athletics arbitration process.

Russia has nominated 387 athletes for Rio, a figure that included the 67 track and field athletes.

The IOC led by German Thomas Bach must carefully look at the legal aspects of a possible blanket ban as Russia is expected to appeal such a ruling before CAS and possibly civil courts.

For German sports justice expert Rainer Cherkah, a full ban constitutes a "legal balancing act."

He told dpa that strict interpretation of the WADA Code only allows a ban for multiple doping offences during an event, not before it. It also remains unclear whether the Olympic Charter allows such a measure.

But Cherkah also admitted that participation of Russia in Rio would be "unacceptable" if the McLaren report evidence proves to be correct.

It was not known by Saturday whether Russian athletes were among 45 who failed doping tests in retests of samples from the 2008 and 2012 Games, announced Friday by the IOC. But the Russian Olympic Committee said that 22 of its athletes were among 53 positives in a first round of retests from those two Games.

Whether these test results factor in the IOC decision-making remains unclear but is unlikely.

It is also not known whether the IOC will look at a decision from the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) from Friday to open suspension proceedings against the Russia body (NPC) for the Rio Paralympics after Paralympians from the country were implicated as well in the McLaren report.

"The IPC believes that the current environment in Russian sport - which stems from the highest levels - is such that NPC Russia appears unable to fulfil its IPC membership obligations in full," IPC president Philip Craven said in a statement.

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