Olympics

Russia to punish athletes who don't return Olympic medals

​Russian athletes who refuse to return Olympic medals following doping cases won't be selected for the national track and field team.

Russian media reports only 1 medal out of more than 20 total cases had been returned

The Russian track federation said Thursday athletes who don't return medals don't have the right to compete in its sports events and won't be eligible for national teams or for drug-testing pools which could allow them to compete internationally as neutral athletes. (David J. Phillip/Associated Press)

Russian track and field athletes haven't been giving up their medals in Olympic doping cases, and local officials have vowed to kick them off the national team until they do.

The Russian track federation said Thursday only one medal has been returned out of 23 which must be handed back because of failed retests of samples from the 2008 and 2012 Games.

The only medal returned so far is a bronze won by Anton Kokorin in the men's 4x400-metre relay at the 2008 Olympics. Kokorin didn't test positive, but teammate Denis Alexeyev's disqualification for a banned steroid means the whole team must give their medals back.

In an effort to speed up the process and win goodwill while under pressure for doping, the Russian track federation said athletes who don't return medals won't have the right to compete in its sports events and won't be eligible for national teams or for drug-testing pools which could allow them to compete internationally as neutral athletes.

The federation itself has been suspended from international competition since November 2015 over widespread drug use. It said the new insistence on returning medals was part of the process of persuading the IAAF that Russia deserves to be reinstated.

The federation said it "is issuing a reminder that during work on reinstatement with the IAAF there are some criteria which have so far been ignored by a number of people." Giving back prize money won by dopers at non-Olympic events is another priority, the federation said.

The decision not to select athletes who don't return Olympic medals is unlikely to have an immediate effect in most cases, since athletes disqualified for Olympic doping are likely to face two-year bans from any sporting involvement anyway. Others are already retired.

However, it could affect runners from relay teams who tested clean but were disqualified because of a teammate's failed test.

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