Athletics: Russian athletics unlikely to get reprieve, says IOC

IAAF president Sebastian Coe (left) and Rune Andersen, who heads the IAAF task force overseeing Russia's attempts to reform, at the press conference in Vienna on Friday, where the governing body voted unanimously to extend the ban.
IAAF president Sebastian Coe (left) and Rune Andersen, who heads the IAAF task force overseeing Russia's attempts to reform, at the press conference in Vienna on Friday, where the governing body voted unanimously to extend the ban. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

VP Coates says it's unlikely to overturn ban on Russia; exec board respects IAAF's move

MELBOURNE • The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is unlikely to overturn the world athletics ban on the Russian track and field team, according to IOC vice-president John Coates.

The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) on Friday unanimously upheld its ban on Russian athletes competing at international competitions due to state-sponsored doping, which means they will miss the Rio Olympic Games.

Russia has cried foul over the ban and President Vladimir Putin said he hoped for an "appropriate response" from the IOC.

Coates said he would be "very, very surprised" if the IOC moved to overturn the ban at a summit on Tuesday in Lausanne, where the Olympic body is due to discuss the matter. "It's an international federation's right to suspend a national federation and I don't think we would overturn that at all," Coates, one of the IOC's most powerful officials, said in Melbourne yesterday.

The 66-year-old, who on Friday described Russia's anti-doping and athletics authorities as "rotten to the core", offered some hope that individual athletes might compete at Rio - if they could show sufficient evidence that they were clean.

He said that the IOC summit in Switzerland may "set some guidelines" on how such Russian athletes might have recourse to appeal against the blanket ban.

Yesterday, the IOC executive board emphasised that it fully respects the IAAF position.

"The eligibility of athletes in any international competition including the Olympic Games is a matter for the respective International Federation," it said in a statement. "The IOC will initiate further far-reaching measures in order to ensure a level playing field for all the athletes taking part in the Olympics."

On Friday, the IAAF said that Yulia Stepanova, the Russian former drug cheat whose revelations helped expose the massive doping problem in her country, could be allowed to compete in Rio as an independent athlete.

The 29-year-old, an 800-metre runner described as "a courageous athlete" by the World Anti-Doping Agency, went into hiding after revealing the details of the problem, and now lives in the United States.

The news came as something of a surprise to Stepanova and her husband, Vitaly Stepanov, a former employee of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency and also a whistle-blower.

" We were prepared to hear a negative answer. Now there is a chance," Stepanov told Reuters.

IAAF president Sebastian Coe, though, believes the number of Russian athletes likely to meet the strict criteria required by the world body seems incredibly small.

"You shouldn't run away with the idea that this is a large number," the Briton said. "We have a doping review board and it will be them that will, on a one-by-one basis, make that judgment as to whether they meet the eligibility requirements and they are in systems that are safe and secure and we can guarantee them.

"Some of those athletes may well be Russian athletes living outside of Russia for an appropriate period of time in safe, secure, effective systems but there may be others who are not. They need to apply and we will look at them by a one-by-one basis."

Athletics accounted for nearly a quarter of Russia's more than 80 medals at London 2012.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 19, 2016, with the headline 'Athletics reprieve unlikely, says IOC'. Print Edition | Subscribe