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RUSSIA

IOC bans Putin ally from Rio Olympics

The International Olympic Committee barred Russia's Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko from the Rio Games and withdrew backing for international events in Russia over a state-run doping programme, but delayed ruling on a complete ban on the country until after a key court case on Thursday.

IOC bans Putin ally from Rio Olympics
President Putin with Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko. Photo: Alexei Druchinin/Ria Novosti/AFP

With the Rio Games due to start on August 5th, the Lausanne-based IOC executive committee held emergency talks on Tuesday on what Olympic president Thomas Bach called a “shocking and unprecedented attack on the integrity of sport and on the Olympic Games” by the Russian government.
   
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), which commissioned an independent inquiry into Russian doping, has led international calls for Russia to be banned from Rio over revelations of widespread state-run doping at the Sochi Winter Olympics and other major events in Russia.
   
But the IOC said after the talks it will first “explore the legal options with regard to a collective ban of all Russian athletes for the Olympic Games 2016 versus the right to individual justice.”
   
It is also waiting on a Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ruling on Thursday on an appeal by 68 Russian athletes against an IAAF ban from the Rio competition.

Mutko barred

The controversial Mutko, a long-time ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was the highest-profile casualty of the first sanctions as the IOC grapples with the biggest doping scandal in Olympic history.
   
He has denied any wrongdoing and said he expects his deputy to be cleared as well.
   
But the IOC ordered a disciplinary commission to look into his ministry's role in what Monday's report called a “state-dictated failsafe system” of drug cheating that included Russia's secret service swapping dirty urine samples for clean ones through a hole in a wall in Sochi.
   
Lead investigator Richard McLaren says he has conclusive evidence that the four-year doping scheme was directed by the sports ministry with the FSB intelligence agency.
   
As a consequence, the IOC said it will not grant any Rio accreditation “to any official of the Russian Ministry of Sport or any person implicated in the (McLaren) report.”
   
That includes Mutko, who has denied that the government directed the doping programme. He told the Interfax news agency he was hoping for a “reasonable” decision from the IOC on Russia's participation in Rio.
   
Mutko said he has suspended five top deputies, including his number two Yury Nagornykh, described as the point man for running the cheating scheme.

Key ruling due

WADA, the German Olympic committee and anti-doping bodies have backed calls for Russia's outright ban from Rio — that would be the first time a country has been banned from an Olympic Games over doping.
   
But the Association of Summer Olympic Federations and other groups have urged caution, pointing to the ethical issues of punishing athletes who have never failed drug tests.
   
The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) has already barred Russian track and field contenders from Rio after an inquiry into widespread state-sponsored doping in the sport.
   
The CAS will rule on whether the IAAF had grounds to impose a blanket ban on a national federation, since such a suspension inevitably punished athletes with no positive drug test on their record.
   
IAAF president Sebastian Coe attended a CAS hearing in Geneva on Tuesday ahead of the ruling.
   
IOC executives also ordered a reanalysis of all samples by Russian athletes taken at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, vowing punishment against anyone who helped competitors cheat.
   
Because the Sochi Games are so tainted, the IOC said it would not give backing to any international sports events in Russia.
   
It called on “all International Olympic Winter Sports Federations to freeze their preparations for major events in Russia.”
   
This includes world championships and World Cups, the IOC said, calling for winter federations “to actively look for alternative organizers.”

In hiding

The Russian Olympic Committee has acknowledged doping problems but insists that collective punishment against possibly clean athletes would leave “the integrity of the Olympic Movement… endangered.”
   
Senior sports and political leaders in Moscow have also questioned the credibility of McLaren's key witness, the former boss of the Moscow anti-doping laboratory Grigory Rodchenkov, who admits he was central to the cheating scheme.
   
Rodchenkov is in hiding in the United States and is wanted by Russia.
   
McLaren said his team uncovered forensic evidence that proved Rodchenkov's claims that Moscow set up a cheating system following the country's poor performance at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games.

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DRUGS

Switzerland green lights recreational marijuana trial

Switzerland’s National Council has approved a plan to start cannabis trials for recreational use. If it is to be legalised however, the government says it must be organic and grown locally.

Switzerland green lights recreational marijuana trial
Photo: MLADEN ANTONOV / AFP

The study, which was approved by the National Council on Tuesday, hopes to find out more about the effects that a controlled legalisation of the drug would have in Switzerland. 

The decision to embark upon the trial was to be made in March but was delated due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

The experiments are to be carried out in Switzerland’s larger cities. Basel, Bern, Biel, Geneva and Zurich have all expressed interest in conducting the trials. 

The study wants to understand how the market for cannabis works – and how to combat the black market. The social effects of legalisation are also set to be studied. 

“The models must be tested before starting the debate on whether or not to liberalise cannabis,” said Pierre-Yves Maillard (Social Democrats), a spokesperson for the responsible committee. 

Only people who currently use cannabis – and can prove it – will be allowed to participate. Proof will be determined through a hair sample. 

‘Organic and Swiss’

Although legalisation is not a foregone conclusion, the National Council added that if cannabis was to be legalised it must be locally grown in Switzerland – and must be organic. 

Minister of Health Alain Berset said that a legalisation should benefit Swiss farmers even though “very few producers have experience in this area”, Berset said. 

200,000 cannabis users in Switzerland

An estimated 200,000 people smoke cannabis products in Switzerland. Those in favour of the new trial argue that this shows the war on drugs has failed – and that legalisation will 

Since 2011, the sale of cannabis products containing up to one percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – the ingredient that makes users high – has been legal in Switzerland.

Regular strength cannabis and other associated products such as hashish are also illegal, although small amounts (less than ten grams) are decriminalised and will only attract a 100 franc on-the-spot fine. 

A poll by the World Health Organisation showed that more teenagers smoked in Switzerland than in any other European country, with 27 percent of 15 year olds having smoked at least once. 

The use of cannabis for medical purposes is also heavily restricted in Switzerland, with only one product – CBD oil – legally available for sale. 

 

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