One year af­ter dop­ing re­port, Rus­sian track team seeks re­turn

Malta Independent - - SPORT -

A year af­ter the re­lease of a damn­ing re­port into wide­spread dop­ing, Rus­sian track and field is hope­ful of a way back into the global fold.

On Novem­ber 9, 2015, the World Anti-Dop­ing Agency's in­de­pen­dent com­mis­sion un­leashed a strongly worded, 323-page ac­count of how Rus­sian ath­letes, coaches and of­fi­cials had col­luded in the use of per­for­mance-en­hanc­ing drugs be­fore and af­ter the 2012 Lon­don Olympics.

That re­port set in mo­tion a year of tur­moil and le­gal bat­tles for Rus­sia, which had more than 100 ath­letes in var­i­ous sports barred from the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, in­clud­ing all but one mem­ber of the track and field team.

The Rus­sian track fed­er­a­tion re­mains barred from in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tion, with no date set for when it could re­turn.

“We've lived through a hard year, very hard,” All-Rus­sian Ath­let­ics Fed­er­a­tion gen­eral sec­re­tary Mikhail Bu­tov told The As­so­ci­ated Press. “Not just re­gard­ing the par­tic­i­pa­tion of our ath­letes at the Olympics, which was the most im­por­tant thing for us, but in terms of rec­og­niz­ing the sit­u­a­tion and un­der­stand­ing which way to go.”

De­spite be­ing un­der the heav­i­est sanc­tions in track and field his­tory, Rus­sian of­fi­cials in­sist they are mak­ing progress on anti-dop­ing re­forms and plan to send ath­letes to ma­jor com­pe­ti­tions in the com­ing months.

The main tar­get is the Euro­pean in­door cham­pi­onships in Bel­grade, Ser­bia, from March 35, fed­er­a­tion pres­i­dent Dmitry Shlyakhtin said af­ter talks with IAAF rep­re­sen­ta­tives in Monaco.

The IAAF will hold a spe­cial congress in Monaco on Dec. 3.

Any Rus­sians who are al­lowed to com­pete will prob­a­bly have to ac­cept “neu­tral sta­tus” in IAAF events rather than of­fi­cially rep­re­sent­ing Rus­sia, Bu­tov sug­gested. The IAAF de­clined to com­ment on the talks.

“The work has con­tin­ued and there is some­thing to show for it,” Bu­tov said.

The only Rus­sian who com­peted in track and field at the Rio Games was long jumper Darya Klishina, who was al­lowed to take part un­der IAAF rules be­cause she had been based in the U.S. for sev­eral years, away from the Rus­sian drug-test­ing sys­tem, which faced ac­cu­sa­tions that of­fi­cials and lab staff had cov­ered up hun­dreds of failed tests.

Rus­sian track and field of­fi­cials and ath­letes hope the IAAF will ac­cept in­di­vid­ual ath­letes' ap­pli­ca­tions to com­pete, even if the fed­er­a­tion as a whole re­mains sus­pended.

“Now it seems as if that cri­te­rion about liv­ing abroad can prob­a­bly be dis­re­garded,” Bu­tov said. “The is­sue now is that the test­ing that has been done in this pe­riod is con­sid­ered con­vinc­ing and guar­an­teed to give an ath­lete the op­por­tu­nity to be con­sid­ered for com­pe­ti­tion. If it's not like that, it'll be an end­less process.”

The Rus­sian drug-test­ing agency has been sus­pended for al­most a year, with test­ing car­ried out in re­duced num­bers by Bri­tain's anti-dop­ing agency. Rus­sian Olympic Com­mit­tee pres­i­dent Alexan­der Zhukov said the sit­u­a­tion was “to­tally un­ac­cept­able” be­cause UK An­tiDop­ing plans to col­lect only 6,000 sam­ples in 2017, com­pared to the 20,000 col­lected by the Rus­sian agency at its peak. He said that only na­tional team ath­letes are be­ing tar­geted for test­ing, leav­ing youth and ju­nior ath­letes out of the sys­tem.

“So, in a sit­u­a­tion like this, why not to find a fast-track way to give the ac­cred­i­ta­tion back to RUSADA and to re­new its ac­tiv­i­ties, es­pe­cially since it is un­der the full con­trol of WADA?” Zhukov said in a speech to IOC of­fi­cials re­leased Wed­nes­day. “What is pre­vent­ing this? For our part, we would like to ap­peal to you as WADA's founders to as­sist in the prompt re­in­state­ment of the Rus­sian anti-dop­ing agency and the anti-dop­ing lab­o­ra­tory in their rights.”

Among those who missed the Rio Games was ham­mer thrower Sergei Litvi­nov, who had hoped to com­pete in his first Olympics.

“I've spent the whole year on edge,” he said.

Litvi­nov, a vo­cal critic of drug use, had re­quested ex­tra drugtest­ing by the IAAF to prove he was clean, but still came un­der the Rus­sian team's ban. He still doesn't know when he can com­pete again.

“What­ever will be, will be,” he said. “It could all change at any mo­ment.”

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