United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC) Chair Susanne Lyons said it would be “difficult” for Russian athletes to prove their innocence. Lyons also said that if there isn’t a way to prove innocence, then Russian athletes shouldn’t be competing at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
The comments came in a conference call last Friday following USOPC Board meetings. Lyons stopped short of calling for a blanket ban on Russian athletes, but noted the difficulty in proving which athletes are innocent, given that the “data manipulation… occurred right up until the eleventh hour of WADA’s investigation.”
Lyons said the USOPC fully supported WADA’s four-year ban on Russia, and that the organization hoped the Court of Arbitration for Sport would uphold the ban if an appeal follows.
Lyons’ full comments, per the transcript of the conference provided by the USOPC:
“A concern we have is that, considering the data manipulation that occurred, right up until the eleventh hour of WADA’s investigation, it’s going to be incredibly difficult for clean Russian athletes to prove their innocence.
“And therefore, it’s very difficult for us to see how justice can be served and how there will be a true deterrent against future corruption, if any of the athletes from Russia have a right to compete in Tokyo, under any flag, neutral or otherwise.”
When asked to clarify if she was calling for a blanket ban on Russian athletes, Lyons said this:
“It’s a difficult question. It’s the balancing between the right to compete and clean athletes’ right to do so.
“If there is a way to determine that there are Russian athletes who are clean, we would support their right to compete. I think we just find it challenging to understand how that will happen for many of those athletes.”