Call for ban on Russian athletes

The report on corruption and money laundering within the international athletics body is distributed to journalists prior to a press conference in Geneva yesterday.
The report on corruption and money laundering within the international athletics body is distributed to journalists prior to a press conference in Geneva yesterday.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Dick Pound.
Dick Pound.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Anti-doping commission report blames systemic failures in IAAF, Russian federation

GENEVA • An international anti-doping commission recommended yesterday that the All-Russia Athletic Federation (Araf) be banned from the sport over widespread doping offences - a move that could see powerhouses Russia suspended from Olympic competition.

An independent commission set up by the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) identified what it called systemic failures in the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) and in Russia "that prevent or diminish the possibility of an effective anti-doping programme".

According to the report, a number of Russian athletes suspected of doping could have been prevented from competing in major competitions, including the 2012 London Olympics, had it not been for "the collective and inexplicable laissez-faire policy" adopted by the IAAF and the Russian federation.

THE GUARDIAN STATE-SUPPORTED CHEATING?

All of this could not have happened without the knowledge of state authorities.

DICK POUND , who heads the independent anti-doping commission set up by Wada

Russian athletes, in soaring numbers, have been caught doping in recent years. Russia had far more drug violations than any other country in 2013: 225, or 12 per cent of all violations globally, according to Wada data. About a fifth of Russia's infractions involved track and field athletes.

The review by Dick Pound, the former Wada president who has spent 11 months looking into claims of systemic cheating and cover-up within Russian athletics and the sport's governing body, also recommended that Moscow's anti-doping lab lose its accreditation.

It accused the lab of the "intentional destruction" of 1,417 samples to deny evidence for the inquiry.

The commission directly accused the Russian government of complicity in the widespread doping and cover-ups, exposed in its damning 323-page report.

It said its 11-month probe found no written evidence of government involvement but "it would be naive in the extreme to conclude that activities on the scale discovered could have occurred without the explicit or tacit approval of Russian governmental authorities".

Pound told journalists at the launch of the scathing report: "All of this could not have happened without the knowledge of state authorities." Asked if cheating by Russian athletes was state-supported, he said: "Yes, I don't think there is any other possible conclusion... they could not not have known."

Vitaly Mutko, the Russian Sports Minister, issued direct orders to "manipulate particular samples", according to the commission.

Mutko, who leads football's 2018 World Cup organising committee, denied wrongdoing to the Wada inquiry panel, including any knowledge of athletes being blackmailed. But Pound said the commission had found "payments of money to conceal doping tests".

The Wada commission's recommendations immediately spurred the IAAF into action. The world governing body's president Sebastian Coe urgently sought approval from his fellow IAAF council members to consider sanctions against Araf. These sanctions could include provisional and full suspension.

"The information in Wada's Independent Commissions Report is alarming," Coe said. "We need time to properly understand the detailed findings. However, I have urged the Council to start the process of considering sanctions against Araf.

"This step has not been taken lightly. Our athletes, partners and fans have my total assurance that where there are failures in our governance or our anti-doping programmes, we will fix them. We will do whatever it takes to protect the clean athletes and rebuild trust."

French police last week arrested former president of the IAAF Lamine Diack, the IAAF legal adviser Habib Cisse and Gabriel Dolle, the former longstanding head of the IAAF's anti-doping unit, over their alleged involvement in the scandal.

And the global police body Interpol said yesterday that it would be coordinating a worldwide investigation into the suspected corruption.

The report was released on the same day the International Olympic Committee said that Diack should be provisionally suspended as its honorary member.

But Mutko was defiant. He said that the Wada commission cannot take the decision to suspend Russia from competition.

"There is no need to get confused, the commission does not have the right to suspend anyone," he said.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS,

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 10, 2015, with the headline 'Call for ban on Russian athletes'. Print Edition | Subscribe