IAAF extends Russia’s doping ban to cover Rio Olympics
THE International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) has upheld its ban on Russia taking part in major events – but individual Russian athletes could still be allowed to compete at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro later this year.
Russia has been suspended from international competition since November because of accusations that systematic doping was carried out with the connivance of the state. The Russian federation responded at the time by claiming to be fully committed to reform, but earlier this week the World Anti-Doping Agency said its officials were still being hampered in their attempts to carry out tests on Russian athletes. The IAAF agreed unanimously to uphold the ban at a meeting in Vienna, but will meet again next Tuesday in Lausanne to discuss the possibility of allowing a limited number of Russian athletes to compete in Rio.
The Russian ministry of sport insisted that they had done all they could to “regain the trust of the international community”.
“We are extremely disappointed by the IAAF’s decision to uphold the ban, creating the unprecedented situation of a whole nation’s track and field athletes being banned from the Olympics,” the ministry said in a statement.
“Clean athletes’ dreams are being destroyed because of the reprehensible behaviour of other athletes and officials.
“We have done everything possible since the ban was first imposed to regain the trust of the international community. We now appeal to the members of the IOC to not only consider the impact that our athletes’ exclusion will have on their dreams, but also that the Olympics themselves will be diminished by their absence.”
The Scottish 800m runner Lynsey Sharp, whose 2012 European silver medal was upgraded to gold a year later after Russia’s Yelena Arzhakova was banned for doping, had no sympathy with that point of view.
“And your country has destroyed ‘clean athletes’ dreams for decades,” Sharp retorted on Twitter. “Not a nice feeling, is it?”
EUROPEAN 400 metres hurdles champion, Eilidh Doyle, admits she is pleased the IAAF have decided not to lift the suspension imposed on Russia but she is also clear that excluding the Russian track and field team from the Rio Olympics is only the first step in restoring trust in her sport.
Russia was banned from international competition in November after it was found to be engaging in state-sponsored doping and the world governing body yesterday ruled that the Russian federation had not met the criteria required for readmission.
It is a result that Doyle is hugely relieved about, particularly in light of a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) report released earlier this week which revealed that anti-doping officials in Russia have been stopped from testing athletes and also threatened by security services.
“This ban is good – it’s a step in the right direction,” she says. “It’s not solving the whole problem but it’s progress.
“We need to keep on making these baby steps and hopefully we’ll get to the bigger picture eventually where things will be sorted. There is no reason Russia should have been allowed back because they’ve not shown any real change. They seem to have done very little to comply with the criteria.”
The IAAF may have made this bold, and unprecedented, step of imposing a blanket ban but it has not completely restored Doyle’s trust in the governing body.
“I think they are taking some steps but I still don’t think they’re doing enough,” she says of the IAAF. “The worrying thing is that all the revelations seem to be coming from the press, so how much of this information would have come out if it hadn’t been for these journalists?
“For me, the thing that’s been most disheartening throughout this whole thing is that the IAAF don’t seem to be on the side of the clean athletes. It’s all about what they can get for themselves – there’s so much corruption, and it’s coming from the very top. That’s the problem, these are guys that we’re supposed to trust yet it’s very hard to.”
The Russian Ministry of Sport released a statement saying they are “extremely disappointed by the IAAF’s decision” and that “clean athletes” dreams are being destroyed by the reprehensible behaviour of other athletes and officials”.
The door is not completely shut for Russian athletes though; the IOC will decide on Tuesday “whether and if individual athletes should be given individual justice”, meaning individual Russian athletes could still compete in Rio despite the federation’s ban.
Doyle predicts that with the threat of legal action hanging over them, the IOC will allow individual Russian athletes to compete if, as they have stipulated, they can prove they are clean. “I think there will still be some Russians on the start line in Rio,” she replied somewhat despondently.
“The human rights thing is a big issue and so I think that will play a part. Individual athletes might not have failed a drug test but that doesn’t mean anything – we’ve seen that in the past. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never failed a test, you could well still be cheating. And if there are individual Russian athletes in Rio, especially if they’re running well, the public will look at that and think that nothing has changed.
“I think it will be detrimental to the sport if there are Russian athletes there. It might be harsh on the clean athletes but it’s the fault of their Federation and unfortunately, the athletes have to pay the price for that.”
LAYING DOWN THE LAW: IAAF president Seb Coe (left) and Rune Andersen