(Reuters) - The World Olympians Association (WOA) has called blanket bans on competitors from doping-tainted nations "unjust" and called for urgent action to ensure clean athletes are allowed to participate in major sporting events.
The Russian Athletics Federation (ARAF) was suspended last month following a report by the World Anti-Doping Agency's (WADA) independent commission that exposed widespread, systematic state-sponsored doping and related corruption.
Russian athletes are therefore set to miss the world indoor athletics championships in the United States in March and face a race against time to be cleared to compete in the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in August.
The WOA, without mentioning Russia specifically, released a statement supporting the rights of clean athletes.
"We believe banning clean athletes is unjust and that sport and its many fans will ultimately pay the price as they will miss the opportunity to see their clean heroes compete at the highest level," WOA President Joel Bouzou said in a statement on the body's website (olympians.org/).
"The individual rights of clean athletes should also be respected as well as their right to train and to compete in the sport that they love.
"One thing is clear: an urgent solution is needed for athletes who are seeking to qualify for and participate in major events allowing them to train, prepare and compete with certainty," the statement said.
The WOA was established by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 1994 to represent those who have competed at Games.
The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) last Friday published a long and detailed list of criteria that the Russians must satisfy before the ban imposed is lifted.
While accepting that athletes, officials and doctors who cheat should be sanctioned, Bouzou suggested that athletes from banned countries that have clean doping records could undergo "extraordinary testing sessions" to allow them to compete.
The Frenchman, a four-times Olympian in modern pentathlon, also said the WOA supported the IOC's proposal for WADA to run independent dope testing on behalf of the sports federations and National Olympic Committees in the future.
Overall, however, his main concern was to ensure that athletes who have never been found guilty of wrongdoing would not suffer for the offences of others.
"It is not only the rights and reputations of athletes at stake, but also their ability to act as role models, inspiring young people and encouraging the next generation to take up sport," he said.
Reporting by Nick Mulvenney; Editing by Ian Ransom and Paul Tait