International Olympic Committee Vice President John Coates said Wednesday in Tokyo that Japan can be confident of weeding out drug cheats at the 2020 Tokyo Games, in the wake of a doping scandal that led to Russia being banned from next year’s Pyeongchang Olympics.
“I think you can be very relaxed,” Coates said at a news conference to wrap up the end of the fifth IOC Coordination Committee meeting. “We can’t be relaxed but you’ve certainly laid the groundwork over many, many years for an anti-doping system during the Tokyo Games that will be of the very highest integrity.”
Russia was last week banned from next year’s Winter Olympics as punishment for a massive state-sponsored doping operation at the 2014 Sochi Games. Russian athletes may compete in Pyeongchang if they pass testing, but they are not allowed to compete under the country’s flag.
Coates sought to play down fears that a similar scandal could occur in Tokyo in 2020, pointing to Japan’s strong track record on anti-doping.
“You have your obligations to provide anti-doping of the highest integrity,” the Australian said. “You have to supply an accredited laboratory. You have both those things. You have one of the finest records of anti-doping among athletes of any country and you have led the way.
“You’ve got legislation to further strengthen your regime, so I don’t think you need to hold any fears about the anti-doping environment that the organizing committee, Japan Sports and the government will provide.”
Coates declared himself “very excited by the progress” at the end of the committee’s three days of meetings.
“We received reports on the progress of venue construction and it’s just not an area that we have any concern,” he said. “You’re meeting all of your deadlines in construction and I see no reason why, in a country so sophisticated, that that won’t continue to be the case.”
Coates also expressed optimism that further cost reductions can be made before the games begin on July 24, 2020. The final budget is currently projected to be $12 billion, and a second version of the budget is set to be released later this month.
“Cost-cutting is an ongoing exercise,” according Coates, who said in October that a further $1 billion could be trimmed from the budget. “We’ll see some evidence of what’s possible to be achieved in version two of the budget. When I was here for the project review in October, we identified some 25 initiatives with the organizing committee. We’ll see how they’ve gone and that will be reflected.
“But we also have to be very, very careful and recognize that there are many areas where you have to keep an eye on costs. While I’m confident that there will be significant savings achieved over the next 2½ years, it won’t all be in this budget now. I also have to be aware that history shows that sometimes things can get out of hand. We’ve got to be very careful.”
Coates also said that commission Vice Chairman Alex Gilady will remain in his post despite accusations of sexual harassment and assault against him, including allegations of rape.
“I’m aware of the allegations,” Coates said. “I’m also aware that he strongly disputes those allegations and his lawyers are disputing those allegations in the Israeli press. The IOC has been kept fully informed of all of the legalities that he’s pursuing. He’s entitled to due process. He denies them, he strongly disputes them, so there’s no basis for him not to be here. That’s our position.”