John Treacy calls for Olympic ban if Russians guilty of wrongdoing
By Daire Walsh
Sport Ireland CEO John Treacy has called on Russia to be banned from the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo if they are found to have manipulated data released to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).
Following alleged inconsistencies in the samples that were handed over to the agency’s investigators in January of this year – after the initial deadline of December 2018 – WADA are set to fast-track a formal compliance procedure against the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA).
If a negative ruling is returned in this case, Treacy believes it should be the final straw for a nation that has been stripped of 43 Olympic medals since the turn of the century.
“When the compliance review group within WADA are basically saying ‘there’s serious issues here, that the data has been manipulated in some way’, they wouldn’t be saying that without having clear evidence in front of them. We’ll wait until the 23rd of October to find out what the outcome of that is,” Treacy said.
“Sitting where I’m sitting, and watching what has unfolded over the last four years, I’m in no way surprised. If there’s not a consequence for Russia’s actions down through the years, they’ll dust themselves off and just move on. This data was due at the end of December. In fact, the WADA team arrived in December and they were sent away. Then they got it after the deadline.
“If this is one more example of breaching all the rules around sport, well then I think strong actions need to be taken. Not by WADA alone, but by the IOC [International Olympic Committee]. If it’s proven they’ve manipulated the data, they should be excluded from the next Olympic Games in Tokyo. Simple as that.”
Since Treacy secured silver in the men’s marathon at the 1984 games in Los Angeles, the only track and field athletes to claim an Olympic medal for Ireland have been Cork natives Sonia O’Sullivan and Rob Heffernan.
However, Heffernan was retrospectively upgraded to a third-place finish for the men’s 50km walk at London 2012 after Russia’s Sergey Kirdyapkin was stripped of his gold medal for a doping violation.
Given the strict processes that Sport Ireland currently deploy around drug testing, Treacy feels more needs to be done to achieve a level playing field across the board.
“We do our best, in terms of our athletes. Our athletes put up with us testing them very frequently. We want to ensure that any athlete that they’re competing against is also going through a rigorous system and that they’re subject to challenge, in terms of anti-doping and in terms of the rules of the game. The system should apply in Russia as it applies to the rest of the world,” Treacy added.
“We need to do this for our athletes. We’re not doing this for the good of our health. We’re doing this for the good of our athletes, who are working so hard to prepare for the next Olympic Games or from previous Olympic Games as well, in terms of natural justice.
Treacy was speaking in Dublin at the launch of the first all-island Children’s Sport Participation and Physical Activity Study – which revealed that just 13% of children in Ireland are sufficiently active for their current and future health.
Nevertheless, with Sport Ireland and Sport Northern Ireland now working together as one, the study’s research lead – Professor Catherine Woods of the University of Limerick – is confident incremental improvements can be made to this figure.
“We work very closely with colleagues in Northern Ireland. A lot of the challenges that we’re facing are exactly the same. 13% of children in both Northern Ireland and the Republic are sufficiently active. That means 87% are not regularly active,” Woods explained.
“Northern Ireland are doing better in some areas and we’re doing better in others. What we now need to do is learn from each other in relation to the strategies that are working for them, the strategies that are working for us and build on those.”