LONDON – Just as Russia's track and field federation was suspended by the IAAF, some of the country's winter sports bodies could be banned if allegations of state-supported doping at the 2014 Sochi Olympics are proven, IOC President Thomas Bach said Wednesday.
Bach wrote in a newspaper op-ed piece that accusations that Russian officials subverted the drug-testing system at the Winter Games "represent a shocking new dimension in doping" and an "unimaginable level of criminality."
Bach said the International Olympic Committee will act with "all the appropriate measures within its powers" to deal with claims by Russia's former anti-doping director that he ran an organized doping program for Russian athletes at the Sochi Games and helped switch tainted samples for clean ones.
The IOC has asked the World Anti-Doping Agency to carry out a full-fledged investigation and plans to retest Sochi samples stored at the lab in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Bach said, if the Russian doping allegations are found to be true, the IOC would punish individual athletes and "all their entourage within its reach."
"This action could range from life-long Olympic bans for any implicated person, to tough financial sanctions, to acceptance of suspension or exclusion of entire national federations like the already existing one for the Russian Athletics Federations by the IAAF," he wrote.
The IAAF suspended Russia from global competition following an investigation by an independent WADA panel that detailed state-sponsored doping, corruption and cover-ups in the country's track and field program.
The IAAF is scheduled to decide next month whether to maintain or lift the ban on the Russians for the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in August.
Bach said the results of WADA's Sochi investigation will "greatly influence" the participation of Russian athletes in Rio.
If there is evidence of organized doping in other Russian sports, international federations and the IOC "would have to make the difficult decision between collective responsibility and individual justice," Bach said.
"It would have to consider whether in such 'contaminated' federations the presumption of innocence for athletes could still be applied, whether the burden of proof could be reversed," he added.
The Russian sports ministry said Wednesday it supports banning drug cheats but claimed it would be unfair to keep a blanket ban on all track athletes for the games.
"We strongly believe that clean athletes, who have spent years of their lives training for the games, should not be deprived of the right to participate," the ministry said. "Moreover, we are willing to fully cooperate with WADA in their investigation and we have officially informed WADA of this."
The statements came as U.S. federal prosecutors investigate the allegations of state-sponsored doping of Russian athletes. The probe, launched by the U.S. Attorney's office for the Eastern District of New York, is looking at athletes, Russian government officials, anti-doping authorities and people who may have benefited from the doping scheme, The New York Times reported.
WADA President Craig Reedie told The Associated Press he had not been contacted by U.S. authorities.
In an interview published last week in the Times, Grigory Rodchenkov, the former head of the Russian lab now living in Los Angeles, said he switched tainted urine samples for clean ones at the doping lab used for the Sochi Games, with help from people he believed to be officers of the Russian security services.
Bach's op-ed piece was published a day after the IOC announced that 31 athletes in six sports could be barred from competing in the Rio Games after their doping samples from the 2008 Beijing Games came back positive in retests.
The Olympic body stores samples for 10 years to allow for retesting with improved techniques, with athletes caught facing retroactive disqualification and loss of any medals.
The IOC said it could not immediately identify the athletes caught in the Beijing retests for legal reasons, saying it would inform the 12 relevant national Olympic committees in the coming days.
Results of retesting of 250 samples from the 2012 London Olympics will be announced shortly, the IOC said. Those tests were also aimed at athletes planning to compete in Rio.
"This decisive action will most likely stop some dozens of doped athletes participating" in the Rio Games, Bach said.