Athletics: Fresh calls to ban Russia for doping

A file photograph dated Jan 16, 2016 of Russia's Athletics Federation (Araf) president Dmitry Shlyakhtin during a press conference in Moscow.
A file photograph dated Jan 16, 2016 of Russia's Athletics Federation (Araf) president Dmitry Shlyakhtin during a press conference in Moscow.PHOTO: EPA

Doping practices still widespread, claims TV station ahead of IAAF decision on Rio status

LONDON • Athletics' world governing body and its president Sebastian Coe are under increased pressure to bar Russia from this year's Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

This comes after a German television channel aired a documentary on Sunday, claiming that many of the doping practices that led to the country being thrown out of the sport last year are still widespread.

On Friday, the council of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) will consider the first report from an inspection task force that will decide if Russia is fit to return. The doping scandal last year revealed state-sponsored doping and a "deep-rooted culture of cheating".

 

Russia had hoped that a favourable report would lead to a plan for its reintegration in time for Rio.

The leadership of the Russian athletics federation has changed, but on Sunday ARD, the German television channel whose original documentary sparked the crisis, said that Russia was still flouting demands for anti-doping reforms.

CLEANING HOUSE

These facts have once again been taken out of context and are an attempt to mislead the public. We have a huge country, with 83 regions. It is possible that a banned coach could be working somewhere, but certainly not with the national team and not at official events.

VITALY MUTKO, Russian sports minister, refuting claims in a German TV documentary that Russia has yet to expel the coaches suspended in its doping scandal.

The programme claimed that coaches suspended in the worst corruption and doping scandal to hit the IAAF were still working in the sport while others continued to provide banned substances to athletes.

Germany's athletics federation chief Clemens Prokop said in the programme: "Apparently, the situation (in Russia) as it has been called into question by the Wada (World Anti-Doping Agency) independent commission has not substantially changed.

"This can only mean that the conditions for the Olympic participation of Russian athletes is not satisfied."

However, Vladimir Kazarin, one of the suspended coaches mentioned in the ARD documentary, denied having worked since the suspension was imposed on him and said he had been "left in limbo" by the global athletics authorities.

He described the accusations as "an absolute load of rubbish".

"They are deliberately dragging out the process," he said. "This is all leading up to making sure that we do not compete in the Olympics.

"I believe this is a political request from the Americans. The USA controls politics and sport. At the 2013 World Championships, Russia won seven gold medals. If we are banned, then all these medals will go to the USA and Britain."

Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko said it was "eye-opening that a television channel in Germany is so concerned about the situation in Russia.

"These facts have once again been taken out of context and are an attempt to mislead the public," he said. "We have a huge country, with 83 regions. It is possible that a banned coach could be working somewhere, but certainly not with the national team and not at official events."

Coe has been battling a succession of scandals since he became IAAF president in August last year but the struggle against doping is likely to define his term in office.

When announcing Russia's suspension from the IAAF last November, he vowed to maintain a tough line with Russia, unless it can be proved that doping has been eradicated.

Late on Sunday the IAAF said that its task force, led by Rune Andersen, a Norwegian anti-doping expert, would investigate the latest allegations.

The group made its first visit to Russia in early January. It will recommend the reinstatement of the Russian athletics federation only if, and when, the federation proves that it is compliant with anti-doping procedures.

A positive report on Friday would not allow Russia to compete at the World Indoor Championships, which start in Portland six days later, but it could clear the way for Russia to compete on the track in Rio.

However, if the task force fails to recommend reinstatement, then time will not be on Russia's side, with the next IAAF council meeting not likely to take place until just before the Games begin on Aug 5.

REUTERS, THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 08, 2016, with the headline 'Fresh calls to ban Russia'. Print Edition | Subscribe