Adam Pengilly, the IOC member from Great Britain, said ! IOC and sports bodies 'need to develop systems to make sure it's OK to disagree’

By Callum Murray and Martin Ross in Glasgow

The International Olympic Committee and other sports bodies need to find ways of encouraging debate and accommodating those who are prepared to disagree with the majority, the Host City conference in Glasgow was told yesterday during a panel session entitled: ‘Has Sport Lost Its Integrity And How Can It Win Confidence Back?’

Adam Pengilly, the IOC member from Great Britain, said: “The system we have means that people fear putting their hand up at times because of the potential consequences. If you're an NOC [national Olympic committee] that didn't agree with a decision at ANOC [the Association of National Olympic Committees' general assembly in Doha last week], then you’re not going to put your hand up because it might have implications on the funding you get through Olympic Solidarity.

“We need to develop our systems to make sure that it’s OK to disagree.”

Pengilly has reason to feel strongly about the issue after he risked being demonised as the sole IOC member to vote against a controversial decision to hand over responsibility for deciding which Russian athletes were eligible to compete at this summer’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro to the international federations of the sports concerned.

The decision was taken in defiance of the World Anti-Doping Agency’s recommendation that the entire Russian team should be barred from competing, in the wake of a ‘state-supported’ doping scandal in Russian sport.

Pengilly yesterday found support from fellow panellist Risto Nieminen, president of the Finnish Olympic Committee, who said: “It really takes some courage. I was there at the Session where Adam was the only IOC member raising his hand against the decision. That’s something we have to work on. We have good governance models but implementing them in practice is a different thing. We have to be able to create opportunities for open debate.”

Explaining his stand, Pengilly said: “I’m an athletes’ representative, so I don't want innocent athletes to have a consequence that’s nothing to do with them within a bigger picture of what’s right for the long term and clean sport and the Olympic Movement…

“I can certainly accept the idea to give international federations the opportunity to look at individual athletes and find out which ones have been part of a robust anti-doping system and then say ‘OK, we're happy with that, let’s bring you in’.

“But there should be some sort of symbolic consequence [for the alleged state-supported doping regime]. For me, that would be letting in athletes who were deemed to be clean but not allow the Russian flag to be flown.”

Handing over to international federations the responsibility for deciding which Russian athletes would compete in Rio arguably created conflicts of interest in interpreting the eligibility criteria, sparking criticism that those federations with close ties to Russia were more likely to clear athletes to compete than those that did not.

Pengilly said: “It was a solution that didn't have much time to be brought in. One of the things that would have helped sport would have been being transparent about what the criteria were.

“The process from some international federations was really rigorous and thorough, [but it was] perhaps not the same with others and that’s where the [notion of] conflict may have some validity.”

Speaking as a member of the audience, Ugur Erdener, president of World Archery and an IOC vice-president, insisted that his federation had applied the eligibility criteria fairly and consistently, saying: “All of them [Russian archers] have been tested outside Russia at least three times before the games... We examined all Russian athletes proposed by the Russian Olympic Committee.

“After our examination we eliminated more than 100 Russian athletes from the games. We had to protect clean athletes.”

Pengilly responded: “I know of a certain international federation president saying ‘Yes! We’ve got another one back in’, when some of these athletes had doping records.

“It wasn't a perfect system... Some sports did it very well, and I think everyone recognises that archery was one of those. Rowing was another one and weightlifting was another, but it wasn’t the case for all sports. But it was really challenging to do that in the time constraint of just days.”

Also speaking from the audience, Francesco Ricci Bitti, president of the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations and former president of the International Tennis Federation, said federations had little time to make their decisions, but added: “I believe that all the federations were very careful in this matter. You can always assume that some did a better job than the other, but to start from this point is not fair. We got this job, we did our job as best we can, and we believe in the principle of individual justice.

“I respect the position of my friend Adam. We have different positions. Why exclude tennis players who go around the world and are tested everywhere?”

Source: sportcal