The chair of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee said the recent decision to reduce doping punishments against Russia “really angered and disappointed many people, including ourselves.”
The statement Monday from Susanne Lyons was part of a newly concentrated effort by the federation to speak up about what it deems a global anti-doping system that it says is not fully protecting clean athletes.
The USOPC board of directors approved a policy at its meeting last week to become a more involved voice in the anti-doping debate.
“We hold concerns that the current status quo deeply threatens the short and long-term prospects of athletes and the Olympic and Paralympic Movements as a whole,” the statement read.
Last Thursday, the Court of Arbitration for Sport released its decision on the latest chapter of the Russian doping scandal, imposing a two-year sanction that will still allow the country’s athletes, leaders and even its flag to be present at upcoming Olympics under many circumstances.
Lyons conceded that because the USOPC does not directly fund the system’s global regulator, the World Anti-Doping Agency, it has limited ways to directly challenge the system. But the USOPC is working with WADA, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency and the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, which has threatened to withhold U.S. funding.
“We’ll continue to try to work as a positive partner around the world but we’ll certainly stand up for athletes and make clear that anything less than the highest efforts to keep sports clean will not be accepted,” Lyons said.
In other news from the board meeting:
— CEO Sarah Hirshland said the USOPC has confirmed that the IOC is not requiring athletes or delegation members to receive the COVID-19 vaccine to attend the Tokyo Games. She said the federation is making a vaccine plan but probably won’t finalize it for four to six weeks.
— The USOPC added six new board members, including Donna de Varona and John Naber. Also new to the board are Daria Schneider, Dexter Paine, Muffy Davis and Gordon Crawford (non-voting). With these additions, nine of the 19 members are Olympians or Paralympians.
— The board discussed a possible bid for a future Winter Olympics but Hirshland said there is no timeline for a decision. Salt Lake City will be the U.S. candidate for a possible 2030 or 2034 bid.
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