Canadian hockey star Hayley Wickenheiser said the International Olympic Committee missed an opportunity to take a stand against corruption in sport by delegating the decision on banning Russian athletes from the Rio Olympics to individual sport federations.
The IOC decided Sunday against a complete ban on Russian athletes from the Olympics, leaving it up to global federations to decide which Russian athletes to accept in their sports.
Wickenheiser, a six-time Olympian and a member of the IOC Athletes’ Commission, expressed her disappointment with the decision on her Twitter account.
"We missed a moment in time to honour the world’s clean athletes and send a bold message to the world that corruption, cheating and manipulating sport will not be tolerated," Wickenheiser said.
"We matched a lion’s roar with a kitten’s purr."
"I ask myself if we were not dealing with Russia would this decision to ban a nation been an easier one? I fear the answer is yes," Wickenheiser added.
The World Anti-Doping Association had called for a ban of all Russian athletes from Rio after Canadian lawyer and WADA investigator Richard McLaren released a scathing report on Monday, alleging the existence a complex state-sponsored doping system in Russia.
IOC president Thomas Bach defended the decision not to ban all Russians from the Olympics by insisting clean athletes should not be punished, but Wickenheiser, as well as former Olympic freestyle skiing champion Jean-Luc Brassard, said putting the decision in the hands of individual federations is not the solution.
"Just 12 days before the Games, the IOC is just throwing a hot potato to the federations, who do not necessarily have all the data to do all the cleaning that needs to be done," Brassard said in a phone interview with The Canadian Press.
"And the federations will wonder, ‘What do we do with that?’ In other words, nothing has changed. They voluntarily decided to do nothing. I feel like the Olympic movement is not doing very well lately.
"When you look at some federations, who voluntarily closed their eyes on doping in the past, you have to wonder if they really can clean things up."
Brassard’s concerns were echoed by Canadian kayaker Adam van Koeverden.
"Did Bach pass the buck? There’s obviously no easy decision here, but there is still no resolution," the 2004 Olympic champion heading into his fourth Games posted on Twitter.
Two-time Olympic champion speedskater Catriona Le May Doan was also critical of the IOC’s decision but hoped the doping controversy would be overshadowed by athletic achievement.
"Disappointing decision by the IOC. However let the clean athletes and sports continue to show that drug-free sport will win, Le May Doan posted on Twitter.
Three-time Olympic luger Sam Edney was more cutting in his criticism.
"The IOC has screwed up yet again!" he posted. "Had the opportunity to make an impact … Instead they show they’re a bunch of fools with no" followed by five emojis of assorted sports balls.
— With files from Alain Martineau in Montreal