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Anti-doping leaders draft letter calling to ban Russia from Olympics

The Russian national flag flies next to the Olympic flag during the closing ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Matthias Schrader/AP Photo

A letter drafted by U.S. and Canadian anti-doping leaders urging Russia’s removal from the upcoming Olympics is circulating days before the public release of a report expected to detail a state-sponsored doping system that corrupted the country’s entire sports program.

The letter, drafted last week and obtained by The Associated Press, is being prepared to be sent to the International Olympic Committee’s president and executive board after the Monday release of a report by investigator Richard McLaren.

The letter calls for the IOC to act by July 26 to ensure that Russia’s Olympic Committee and sports federations will not be allowed in Rio de Janeiro, where the games are set to start on Aug. 5. The letter encourages exceptions for Russia-born athletes who can prove they were subject to strong anti-doping systems in other countries.

READ MORE: Rio 2016: Russian ban could boost Canadian track and field team

A statement from Pat Hickey, the president of the European Olympic Committee, said the letter “undermined the integrity and therefore the credibility of this important report.”

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“My concern is that there seems to have been an attempt to agree (on) an outcome before any evidence has been presented,” Hickey said.

The McLaren report was sparked by a New York Times story accusing the Russian government of helping to manipulate tests at the Sochi Games to ensure cheaters wouldn’t get caught.

Preliminary findings from the report, released last month, found “mandatory state-directed manipulation of laboratory analytical results operating within” the Moscow anti-doping lab from at least 2011 through the summer of 2013. Those findings also said Russia’s “Ministry of Sport advised the laboratory which of its adverse findings it could report to WADA, and which it had to cover up.”

READ MORE: Russian rowing team banned from Rio Olympics for doping

Based in part on that information, the letter to the IOC anticipates that the McLaren report will show the Russian government helped organize a “systematic undermining of the drug testing of Russian athletes for many years in a successful effort to cheat to win.”

The AP also obtained a letter written by Beckie Scott, head of the athlete committee of the World Anti-Doping Agency, urging athletes to sign onto the U.S.-Canada letter. Scott informs athletes that, in addition to support from U.S. and Canadian anti-doping leaders Travis Tygart and Paul Melia, the letter also has backing from anti-doping agencies in Germany, New Zealand, Japan, France, Denmark and Norway.

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Last week, IOC President Thomas Bach said it was important to strike the right balance between “collective responsibility and individual justice” in dealing with results from the McLaren report.

“It is obvious that you cannot sanction or punish a badminton player for infringement of rules or manipulation by an official or lab director in the Winter Games,” Bach said.

READ MORE: IOC backs ban of Russian track team

Already, track’s governing body, the IAAF, has suspended Russia’s track team from the Olympics after a separate investigation turned up evidence of a state-sponsored doping system used to benefit that team. The Court of Arbitration for Sport is expected to rule July 21 on the eligibility of 68 Russian athletes who have appealed to compete in Rio.

McLaren was given permission to look into all Russian sports, and the letter being drafted for the IOC is written as if they all have been corrupted.

“We agree and believe a full suspension is the only available and appropriate result having regard to the findings and conclusions set out in the report,” it said.

In an interview last Tuesday, Tygart urged a full Russian ban, but said he had not seen the report in its entirety. He did not immediately respond to messages left by the AP on Saturday.

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