Brazil did its best to roll out the red carpet for athletes, officials and visitors from over 200 countries for the 31st Olympic Games being held under the shadow of the biggest doping scandal afflicting the Russian players.
The games, expected to be watched by a global audience of several billions, saw India’s own struggle with a drug scandal as its shot putter, Inderjeet Singh, was banned from going to Rio and its wrestler Narsingh Pancham Yadav won the approval of the national anti-doping regulator by the skin of his teeth, successfully claiming that his food had been spiked by a rival.
Even as an Irish boxer was held back for testing positive to a banned substance, officials here reiterated that no tolerance would be shown to those who took drugs to enhance performance.
“The fight against doping is a top priority for the IOC, which has established a zero-tolerance policy,” a statement from the committee which oversees the games had stated earlier.
The International Olympic Committee on Thursday approved 271 Russian athletes to participate out of the original contingent of 389, banning some 30 per cent of the participants blamed on “state-directed” doping and cover-up.
The IOC decision came just about 24 hours before the games extravaganza takes off with an opening ceremony at the Maracana stadium here on Friday evening (early Saturday in India).
The committee rejected calls to ban Russia entirely from the games, following report by World Anti-Doping Agency of wide-spread doping and cover-up by Russian authorities.
The decision may have come as a relief to those who had been preparing for years to participate in the world’s most prestigious games.
Alexander Zhukov, president of the Russian Olympic Committee told the media there was “good news” for the fans as “the majority” of the sports had been admitted in full. The entire track and field team of the country had earlier been banned after the scandal hit the headlines.