Citing an investigation that found systematic and state-supported cheating by Russia's athletes during the Sochi Olympics, the World Anti-Doping Agency says that all Russian athletes and government officials should be barred from this summer's Rio Olympics.
WADA is calling for the ban shortly after the agency released a 103-page report from Richard McLaren, a Canadian who was asked by WADA to conduct an independent investigation into allegations of widespread cheating -- including, most notably, claims that Russian officials regularly swapped out athletes' drug-tainted samples for clean ones that would pass inspection.
In proposing a total ban on Russian athletes from both the Olympics and Paralympics, WADA is going a step further than the ban on Russian track and field athletes that was issued last month by the International Association of Athletics Federations.
The International Olympic Committee says that its executive board will hold a telephone conference Tuesday to consider possible sanctions that would include the Olympic Games Rio 2016.
"The findings of the report show a shocking and unprecedented attack on the integrity of sport and on the Olympic Games," IOC President Thomas Bach says. "Therefore, the IOC will not hesitate to take the toughest sanctions available against any individual or organisation implicated."
The issue of doping has hung over the international athletics scene for years now -- including earlier this month, when the U.S. track and field Olympic Trials was the scene of an unusual ceremony in which American shot putter Adam Nelson was awarded a gold medal for his performance in the 2004 games in Athens. The original gold medalist in that competition, Yuriy Bilonogof of Ukraine, "tested positive for banned anabolic steroids in a re-test of his urine sample from 2004," as NPR's Tom Goldman reported for The Torch.
Responding to the new WADA report, U.S. Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun says:
"The McClaren Report confirms what we have stated previously: the current anti-doping system is broken and urgently requires the attention of everyone interested in protecting clean athletes. We look forward to working with the IOC, WADA and the entire Olympic family to address the flaws in the current system so that a uniform approach to anti-doping can be implemented and enforced around the world."
As for the upcoming Summer Olympics, Blackmun says, the goal should be to "give clean athletes some measure of comfort that they will be competing on a level playing field in Rio."