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US leading campaign to force Russia out of Rio Games

[PARIS] The United States and Canada are leading a campaign to have Russia completely banned from the Rio Olympics, according to a European sports chief who said on Saturday he was "shocked" by the move.

European Olympic Committees president Pat Hickey said the head of the World Anti-Doping Agency's athletes commission had sent out an appeal for backing for the US-Canada move.

A storm has erupted ahead of the release on Monday of a report by Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren into allegations that the Russian government manipulated doping samples taken at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics to protect Russian competitors.

Russia is already banned from international athletics because of a doping storm.

But Mr Hickey said the US-Canadian attempt to get a blanket ban before the report has been released "has shocked and concerned me on a number of levels".

"My concern is that there seems to have been an attempt to agree an outcome before any evidence has been presented," said Mr Hickey.

"Such interference and calls ahead of the McLaren Report publication are totally against internationally recognised fair legal process and may have completely undermined the integrity and therefore the credibility of this important report." Mr Hickey said that Beckie Scott, the Canadian chairman of the WADA athletes commission and an IOC member, had sent out an email appeal to back a letter from the US and Canadian anti-doping agencies to the IOC president Thomas Bach.

"This letter calls upon the IOC to instigate a wholesale ban of the Russian Olympic Committee team in Rio 2016.

"This unprecedented call for such a ban is based on what the US and Canadian national anti-doping agencies say are the findings of the independent McLaren Report." Mr Hickey said the McLaren report is meant to remain confidential until its publication on Monday. "It is clear from the e-mail and letter that both the independence and the confidentiality of the report have been compromised," he said.

According to Mr Hickey, three European anti-doping agencies have been approached to sign the US-Canadian letter.

"It is clear that only athletes and organisations known to support a ban of the Russian Olympic Team have been contacted," said the European Olympic chief.

"I have to question on what authority the USA and Canadian anti-doping agencies prepared their letter and what mandate they have to lead an international call for a ban of another nation in the Olympic family.

"Whilst I fully understand and share international concerns over the recent doping allegations, we cannot allow any individuals or groups to interfere or damage the integrity of fair and due legal process."