Ban on Russian athletes to be extended to London world championships
Russia faces almost certain expulsion from this summer’s World Athletics Championships in London after an IAAF task force investigating the country’s efforts at reform following a series of doping scandals recommended that it should not return until November 2017.
Rune Andersen, who led the International Association of Athletics Federations’ investigation, agreed that while Russian Athletics had made some efforts at reform following widespread revelations of state-sponsored doping, a lack of anti-doping testing in Russia coupled with government officials still refusing to acknowledge the extent of their problems, meant he could not recommend the country returning in time to compete in London in August.
“The road map that I outlined clearly states that there will be no reinstatement until the Russian Anti-Doping Agency is functioning,” said Andersen. “If everything goes in accordance to plan there will be a full reinstatement by November 2017. Which means that Russia as a nation, or RusAF [the Russian Athletics Federation], is not recommended by us to be reinstated until that time.”
Russian athletes will be allowed to compete under a neutral flag in the world championships provided they can prove to the IAAF that they have been tested regularly outside Russia. Thirty-five athletes have already applied to the governing body of international athletics for approval.
The president of the IAAF, Sebastian Coe, said that the approach would help protect track and field for clean athletes. “We have always been at pains to provide an opportunity for those Russians who can demonstrate they are from a clean system to compete, while ensuring they are not going to jeopardise the opportunity and the chances of the clean athletes competing alongside them.
“We have done everything we could to separate the regime from the individual athlete. We have always felt that was the proportional response.”
The IAAF said it was encouraged that Russian Athletics was heading in the right direction, praising the RusAF president Dmitri Shlyakhtin’s “tireless work to meet the specific and detailed requirements set out in the verification criteria”.
“There have been some subtle shifts and I am encouraged by the conversations I have had with the task force,” said Lord Coe. “But I am not cavalier about the amount of work that there still remains to be done. The really important concept here is our ability to separate clean athletes from a tainted system and that will take time.”
Meanwhile the IAAF has also frozen all new transfers of international allegiance with immediate effect. “It has become abundantly clear with regular multiple transfers of athletes, especially from Africa, that the present rules are no longer fit for purpose,” said Coe. “Athletics, which at its highest levels of competition is a championship sport based upon national teams, is particularly vulnerable in this respect. Furthermore, the present rules do not offer the protections necessary to the individual athletes involved and are open to abuse.”
In another development Coe, speaking to the BBC on Monday, defended himself against allegations he had misled MPs about his knowledge of corruption inside the IAAF before he became president.
In December 2015 Coe appeared to indicate to the culture, media and sport select committee that he had been unaware of the scale of the corruption within the IAAF until a series of revelations from German TV were broadcast in late 2014, implicating the IAAF marketing executive Papa Massata Diack, the son of the then president Lamine Diack, and the IAAF treasurer Valentin Balakhnichev as well as a number of other key figures. Both Massata Diack and Balakhnichev have now been banned from the sport for life.
It has since emerged that Dave Bedford, who was then the head of the IAAF’s road‑running commission, emailed Coe in August 2014 telling him how senior figures close to Lamine Diack had forced the Russian marathon runner Liliya Shobukhova to pay €450,000 to conceal a positive drug test only for her to then be sanctioned.
“I did not mislead MPs,” Coe said. “I have a sport to run, they have a report to write.”
Coe was also asked about the sacking of his closest confidant, Nick Davies, from his job at athletics’ governing body after lying to investigators about receiving secret payments totalling €30,000 from Papa Massata Diack.
“The ethics board has reported,” said Coe. “It’s a matter of personal sadness to me. This was not an outcome anybody wanted.”