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Digging deeper into the IOC's reaction to the latest doping scandal


All right. Now, during this press conference, IOC President Thomas Bach said the IOC needs support from governments as it relates to these scandals because the IOC is limited. So, Tim, is he shrugging off responsibility, or does he have a point to an extent?

TIMOTHY BAGHURST: He does and doesn't have a point. If you put yourself in the position of Bach, he is overseeing an international organization. Yes, it has a lot of power and control, but that control is limited once an athlete gets into their respective countries. And it's really on the countries themselves to be able to support those athletes with excellent coaching. And what we might have seen in this situation with Valieva is perhaps what we would call a transactional coach - a coach interested in the outcomes of the athletes, maybe not necessarily the welfare, which would be described as a transformational coach.

MARTÍNEZ: How much do you think governing bodies - sports governing bodies - should be involved in this?

BAGHURST: You know, really a lot - they are at the forefront of sports. We're here at the Olympics. We're watching the Olympics. We're watching the coaches and athletes. And most countries have governing bodies. They have Olympic committees within their own countries that would enable them to provide coaching education, coach oversight, et cetera. The challenge maybe in some smaller countries is they don't have the financial support or the infrastructure to do that well. But we're looking at something like the Russian Olympic Committee...


BAGHURST: ...Russia, which does have that support and could do this much better.

MARTÍNEZ: Now, earlier this week, the IOC said it was premature to draw any conclusions from Valieva's case. Tim, why so much reluctance to make a call on this?

BAGHURST: It really boils down to the fact that Valieva hasn't had her B sample tested. And why it took six weeks for the A sample to be tested remains to be seen. But until that B sample is tested, you can't enforce those sanctions. Sometimes an athlete will confess, you know, yes, I took X, Y and Z; therefore, I know my B sample is going to be positive as well. I'm going to start my suspension immediately - and actually begin that early. But in this case, the B sample hasn't been tested, and therefore decisions can't be made until that B sample's tested. So it placed the IOC in a very awkward position because, theoretically, this athlete hasn't completely tested positive. We're not absolutely sure. Testing samples can be contaminated.

MARTÍNEZ: But how often does that happen, Tim? I mean, when an A sample comes back positive, how often does a B sample contradict the A sample?

BAGHURST: It's rare, but it's still a gate check. It still has to be done simply because it does happen. You know, a seal might not have sealed properly on an A sample. There may be some other contaminant that got in the way during testing. There's human error in some of this. So it does happen. It's rare. But you have to follow due process.

MARTÍNEZ: Now, in the past, Russia was stripped of 46 medals, and athletes can't even compete under the Russian Federation banner because of a four-year ban on all major sporting events by the World Anti-Doping Agency, WADA. Isn't some skepticism justifiable when it comes to how Russia has handled this?

BAGHURST: One would say yes, given the historical nature of Russia and RUSADA - Russia's Anti-Doping Administration - processes. But at the same time, part of this is because this is a high-profile athlete, somebody who's supposed to win the gold. And it is Russia. And I don't know whether we would be having such a conversation if it was in a smaller country with a less-known athlete.

MARTÍNEZ: Timothy Baghurst is director of the Interdisciplinary Center for Athletic Coaching at Florida State University. Tim, thanks.

BAGHURST: Thank you so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.