Every Russian Athlete–Including 2 in Dressage–Must Undergo Rigorous Drug Testing To Be Allowed to Compete at Rio Olympics

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Inessa Merkulova and Mister X. © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Inessa Merkulova and Mister X. © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

July 24, 2016

The International Olympic Committee on Sunday ordered that every Russian athlete–including two individuals in dressage–must clear “rigorous” drug testing and their past records thoroughly reviewed before being allowed to compete in the Olympic Games opening in Rio de Janeiro in two weeks.

The IOC said after a meeting of its executive board that it was assigning “collective responsibility” to the athletes for the Russian “system subverting and manipulating the anti-doping system.”

All 28 sports in the Olympics, including the equestrian disciplines of dressage, eventing and jumping–were covered by the directive from the IOC.

Inessa Merkulova, 51 years old and Mister X, 12-year-old Russian-bred Trakehner gelding and Marina Aframeeva, 25 years old, and Vosk, 11-year-old Russian-bred Hanoverian gelding are the two combinations  named for Russia’s two individual starts in dressage. Four Russian riders and horses have been entered in eventing.

Russia's Marina Aframeeva and Vosk. © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Russia’s Marina Aframeeva and Vosk. © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

There have been no indications that Russian equestrians were among the 20 Olympic sports that have been implicated in the doping that an independent investigation found what it said was systematic and rampant cheating in the drug testing lab in Russia, among athletes, coaches and sports officials as well as the ministry of sport.

The behavior of Russia was described by IOC President Thomas Bach as an “unprecedented level of criminality.”

“Under these exceptional circumstances,” the IOC said in a statement, “Russian athletes in any of the 28 Olympic summer sports have to assume the consequences of what amounts to a collective responsibility in order to protect the credibility of the Olympic competitions, and the ‘presumption of innocence’ cannot be applied to them.

“On the other hand, according to the rules of natural justice, individual justice, to which every human being is entitled, has to be applied. This means that each affected athlete must be given the opportunity to rebut the applicability of collective responsibility in his or her individual case.”