Russian Rio Olympics hopes in jeopardy due to doping scandal
PALO ALTO, Calif. (KTVU) - The 2016 Summer Olympics start in about two weeks, with the big question looming: Will the Russians be there?
They could be ousted from competition because of doping. The governing powers are expected to decide by Sunday, whether to widen a ban on track and field athletes to all of Team Russia.
"It's totally a big soap opera," Olympian Anne Warner Cribbs told KTVU, at her Palo Alto home Wednesday evening, "but I am excited in spite of it all."
Cribbs heads to Brazil as a spectator and a gold medalist, swimming the 200 meter breaststroke, in 1960 in Rome when she was just 15.
"We didn't have doping in the 1960 Olympics," Cribbs smiled," and I'm grateful for that."
The head of the International Olympic Committee has signaled his willingness to support a blanket ban on all Russian participants.
"The IOC has started disciplinary action against all persons and organizations," declared Thomas Bach, "on what is a really shocking and unprecedented attack on the integrity of sport and the Olympic Games. "
Bach has been given independent evidence that Russia has been systematically doping across thirty sports for years, and that direction came from the highest levels of sports and government.
Hundreds of athletes' dirty test results were found to have been routinely swapped for clean samples.
"This becomes a big distraction for everybody but it absolutely needs to be done," observed Cribbs, of the crackdown.
"We can't have the integrity of the Olympic Games compromised. We can't have doping and we can't have cheating."
Cribbs notes in 1980, the games went on without Americans, and Russians were absent in '84.
So it's not unheard of for some games to have an "asterisk."
"That's how it will be," noted Cribbs, " and everybody across the world who has been pointing to this event, there will be something that's not quite right about it."
Cribbs did not swim competitively after her own Olympics. At the time, there were no collegiate programs for women, so training was nonexistent.
But the Olympics have remained a big part of her life, carrying the tradition and the torch on several occasions.
She is also a leader in past efforts to bring the games to the Bay Area, and support local athletes.
75 Northern Californians will be competing for the U.S. in Rio de Janeiro.
As the Olympics' grapples with what to do about the Russians, Cribbs hopes there's a way for "clean" competitors to remain in the games under a neutral flag.
"I feel badly for the athletes who were not cheating and I'm sure there were some, and they're caught up in this," she elaborated, "but there can't be continued doping in the Olympics. They have to catch the people and they have to punish them."