Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Did Russia Break the IOC's Rules for Ivan Stretovich? Probably, But Does It Matter?

Baby Stretovich!

Today, Valentina Rodionenko confirmed that Ivan Stretovich would replace Nikita Ignatyev at the Olympics. The reason given: Stretovich was performing better than Ignatyev in training.

Seems like a good coaching decision, right? After all, you want your best gymnasts to compete.

But here's the thing: If Valentina's explanation is accurate, the swapping of athletes should be seen as a violation of the IOC's Late Athlete Replacement (LAR) Policy.

 What Are the IOC's Rules?

First things first, we have to recognize that the IOC rules are in play – not the FIG's rules. Some gymnastics fans confuse this. As the FIG's Technical Rules state, "For the OG [Olympic Games] and YOG [Youth Olympic Games], IOC rules apply."

And the IOC rules are pretty strict. They read:

From 19 July 2016 00.00 Rio de Janeiro time (GMT-3) the Rio 2016 Organising Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games (Rio 2016) may authorise a permanent replacement of an athlete by another athlete in the same sport, discipline, and event.

Okay, we're good so far. This is happening after July 19, 2016, and we don't have a rower replacing an artistic gymnast. Ivan Stretovich is replacing a fellow artistic gymnast. No broken rules so far. Let's go on…

Each decision will be made after consultation with the relevant International Federation (IF) [in our case, the FIG] and its respective medical expert and, when deemed appropriate, the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Such replacement will only occur when there are urgent medical conditions preventing participation of an athlete, or otherwise on a case-by-case basis for exceptional circumstances.

Can you see the problem here? As far as we know, Nikita Ignatyev does not have an urgent medical condition that is preventing him from competing, nor are there exceptional circumstances that we know of. He simply wasn't hitting in training. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ 

Sounds like a rule violation to me.

Side note to those who are sticklers about rules: If you're going to sub an alternate, it needs to be done "24 hours prior to the beginning of Competition I (qualifications)." /side note

Should We Care That the Rules Were Seemingly Violated?

I'm sure that everyone has their opinions. Some will say that rules are rules. Others might point to the fact that VTB, a Russian bank, is one of the FIG's major sponsors. So, of course, the FIG would allow Russia to do whatever Russia wants, or so that line of reasoning goes. Still others will defend Russia's decision because it is a logical decision – regardless of what the rules say. And of course, if Russia medals in the team competition, many gymnastics fans will suddenly care, and they will care A LOT.

I'll admit, under different circumstances, I'd care about this rule infraction. In fact, I'd care so much that I'd fire a tweet storm at the IOC. But the 2016 Olympics are happening under exceptional circumstances, and I'm getting to the point where I can't even even.

Here we are. It's the night before podium training, and we still don't know if Russia will be allowed to compete at the Olympic Games.* At this point, does it really matter if the LAR Policy wasn't upheld? Wouldn't you rather know if Stretovich and his teammates will be allowed to compete – like, at all?

The Russian gymnasts' fates are in the IOC's hands, and it feels like the IOC keeps changing the rules. First, the International Federations were in charge. Now, a committee of three IOC members are overseeing the Russian doping crisis. It feels like the IOC is just making things up as they go.

As a gymnastics fan, I laugh so that I don't cry. Remember when Bruno Grandi said that the judging debacles of the 2004 Athens Olympics "discredited our sport?" Well, the IOC is having its Athens this year, and the IOC is on the verge of discrediting the entire Olympic movement.

Get. It. Together.

* Yes, Vasily Titov, the VP of the FIG, said that the Russians would be able to compete, but his statement was not official.


  1. Are you sure is Yuri Titov? Maybe Vasily Titov instead?

  2. Ivan Stretovich was already on the competition roster as reserve. I don't think this is the same as bringing in a completely new athlete, as he is already registered with the IOC. If teams weren't allowed to use their reserves, many would be in violation, not just Russia - it happens all the time.

  3. Yes there is no rule to prevent the team alternate for being substituted prior to podium training without reason. The LAR refers solely to bringing athletes IN not already accredited/registered wit the IOC. It is only once competition rosters are submitted, 24 hours in advance of competition begin, AKA tomorrow for the men/Saturday for the women, that documented injury-only replacement applies.

    Individual Olympic committees, like the USOC, have a rule where an athlete must remove themselves, or be removed for medical reasons once named to an Olympic team, which is why it took multiple days to officially replace John Orozco after he tore his ACL, but ASFAIK the ROC has no such rule.

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