There is a chance that Russian could be bounced from the Rio Games following the release Monday of a scathing report by the World Anti-Doping Agency.
And it’s not just a possibility at this stage with the Games less than three weeks away.
Ryan Gauthier, a newly arrived TRU professor who specializes in the governance of international sports organizations, considers Russia’s ouster from the elite of sporting events as more than a possibility, calling it a “decent chance.”
Russia’s anti-doping program is described as "disappearing positive methodology” in a WADA investigation by Richard McLaren, a Canadian law professor. McLaren points to instances during the Sochi Olympics four years ago that involved subterfuge, concealment and corruption at the highest levels.
Countries have to be active, to willingly monitor doping, yet Russian has seemed prepared to do whatever it takes to bring home the medals from international competition, Gauthier said.
“What’s been seen here is almost Cold War-style tactics of swapping out test samples and falsifying results,” he added, though he’s not yet had a chance to read the McLaren report.
Groups including the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency are urging the IOC to take the strongest possible action. They want the Russian delegation banned from the Games.
Concerns around the Summer Games extend well beyond fair competition and the Zika virus.
Gauthier, whose PhD research examined the accountability of the IOC for human rights violations, said widespread occurrences of displacement of people and environmental damage in Rio are pertinent examples of problems caused by hosting the massive event.
“Local government has used the Games as an excuse to evict thousands of people from favelas (Brazilian slums), and turning the land over to private developers,” Gauthier explained. “Meanwhile, a protected wetlands was ‘de-listed’ to make way for the golf course—golf not being a popular sport in Brazil, a new one was needed. And Guanabara Bay, home of swimming and sailing, can be described as a ‘cesspool’, and will pose a real harm to athletes’ health.”
Hosting the Games results in other problems that are less visible but equally damaging, such as funding that removes resources from other, more critical sectors.
“The Rio Games are about US$1.6 billion over-budget, and are likely taking away money from schools and hospitals.”
Gauthier’s research examines how the international organizations that own the rights to sports mega-events can be held accountable for their actions, legally or otherwise.
“There already is fallout,” he said. “You can see this from the Sochi Games,” he added, citing instances of forced labour.
The IOC’s experiences with Russia and Brazil will force it to look at safer host cities in the future, he predicted. Establishing a permanent home city for the Olympics is practically and politically untenable, but holding the Games on a rotational basis may be a distinct possibility.
“You can’t just plunk down the Games down anymore for whoever wants them.”
The example set by FIFA, in scheduling the 2020 World Cup soccer games at venues across Europe, may be a means of distributing the cost of international competition, he suggested.
Gauthier, whose mother grew up in Kamloops, is so far enjoying his new surroundings. He recently completed his PhD in Europe and previously worked in labour and employment law in Vancouver. He is a Harvard Law graduate and a non-practicing member of the New York bar.