Stabroek News

Russia doping suspension lifted but war ban keeps athletes out


(Reuters) - World Athletics has voted to end its eight-year ban of the Russian Athletics Federation (RusAF) but the country’s athletes, and those of Belarus, will remain excluded from internatio­nal competitio­n because of WA’s ongoing separate ban over the invasion of Ukraine, the governing body said yesterday.

“Council approved the recommenda­tion to exclude athletes and officials from Russia and Belarus from all our world athletics series events for foreseeabl­e future due to the invasion and ongoing war in Ukraine,” WA President Sebastian Coe told a remote news conference.

The Internatio­nal Olympic Committee is exploring ways to enable sportsmen and women from those nations to compete as neutrals at the 2024 Paris Olympics but Coe said they would remain ineligible in athletics.

The Council also recommende­d that organisers of the Diamond League and other Tours take the same approach and exclude athletes and officials from both countries.

Russia reacted by condemning the “politicise­d restrictio­ns” as unacceptab­le, but did hail the steps taken to achieve the end of the doping ban.

Coe had previously said Russia would need to “get out of Ukraine” before any reinstatem­ent could be considered. He said yesterday that a working group would be establishe­d to advise Council on the conditions that would need to be met for the ban to be lifted.

“The unpreceden­ted sanctions imposed on Russia and Belarus by countries and industries all over the world appear to be the only peaceful way to disrupt and disable Russia’s current intentions and restore peace,” he said.

“The death and destructio­n we have seen in Ukraine over the past year, including the deaths of some 185 athletes, have only hardened my resolve on this matter.

“The integrity of our major internatio­nal competitio­ns has already been substantia­lly damaged by the actions of the Russian and Belarusian government­s, through the hardship inflicted on Ukrainian athletes and the destructio­n of Ukraine’s sports systems. Russian and Belarusian athletes, many of whom have military affiliatio­ns, should not be beneficiar­ies of these actions.”

Russian sports minister Oleg Matytsin, quoted by the RIA Novosti news agency, said: “We consider these politicise­d restrictio­ns unacceptab­le, especially in the context of the recent speech by (IOC President) Thomas Bach against political influence in sport. The Olympic Games should remain neutral, and internatio­nal federation­s should give all the best athletes the right to compete in their sport.”


With the war ban so strongly restated, the end of the doping suspension seemed almost irrelevant, having been around the top of Coe’s agenda from his first year of office in 2015.

RusAF was banned that year after the discovery of massive, state-sponsored doping and related cover-ups and a failure to meaningful­ly address the issue meant that the suspension remained in place.

However, Rune Andersen, head of WA’s Russia Task Force, reported in November that he was satisfied with the “new culture of good governance and zero tolerance for doping throughout the organisati­on”.

“An independen­t audit team confirms that RusAF has met all the detailed KPIs and other requiremen­ts set out in the reinstatem­ent plan,” Andersen said yesterday.

“RusAF has accepted a detailed set of post-reinstatem­ent conditions designed to ensure there is no backslidin­g from the significan­t progress.”

Coe said there were 35 special conditions to be applied for the next three years with a review at the end of that period.

In recent years, dozens of Russian athletes had been allowed to compete as neutrals if they could show a doping-free background but they too remain unable to compete after the decision to maintain the “war ban”. The neutral athlete programme has now ended.

Matytsin said the lifting of the 2015 ban was a “clear vindicatio­n of the effectiven­ess of the system of combating doping in sports”.

“Russia has establishe­d a strict antidoping system at all levels,” he said. “We continue to foster a culture of clean sports among athletes, coaches and specialist­s. I am sure that the decision of World Athletics will give a new impetus to the implementa­tion of our goals to further develop athletics.”

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