Road To The Olympic Games

Track-field

IAAF upholds ban on Russian athletics ahead of Rio Olympics

The IAAF will continue the ban on Russian track and field athletes, the organization's president Sebastian Coe said at a news conference Friday in Vienna, noting that several important verification criteria had not been satisfied.

Decision follows investigation into doping scandals

The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) announced on Friday that they will uphold a ban on Russian track and field athletes from competing at international competition. 4:34

The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) is upholding the ban on Russian track and field athletes.

IAAF president Sebastian Coe announced the decision at a news conference Friday in Vienna, saying several important verification criteria had not been satisfied.

"Although good progress has been made, the IAAF council was unanimous that RusAF [Russian Athletics Federation] had not met the reinstatement conditions and that Russian athletes could not credibly return to international competition without undermining the confidence of their competitors and the public," Coe said. "As a result, RusAF has not been reinstated to membership of the IAAF at this stage."

The IAAF council, chaired by Coe, made the decision after receiving a recommendation from a five-person task force, headed by Norway's Rune Andersen, that had been monitoring Russia's reform efforts.

"For Russian athletes to be reinstated into international competition, RusAF must show that there is now a culture of zero tolerance towards doping in Russian athletics and that RusAF, RUSADA [Russian Anti-Doping Agency], and the public authorities in Russia, working in cooperation, have created an anti-doping infrastructure that is effective in detecting and deterring cheats, and therefore provides reasonable assurance and protection to clean athletes both inside and outside of Russia," Andersen said.

Andersen also said Russia will most likely be ready for full compliance in 18 to 24 months.

Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said on Friday that the IAAF's decision was expected, TASS news agency reported. Mutko also said Russia would definitely react to the decision.

The decision would mean that Russian athletes would remain unable to compete in IAAF-sanctioned events, including next month's European championships in Amsterdam. However, some could still take part in Rio in August if the International Olympic Committee (IOC) makes special dispensation at its summit on June 21.

The ban was originally enforced in November following a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) report alleging state-sponsored doping. A second report filed Wednesday cited further obstruction and drug-testing violations.

Exemptions for certain athletes

The task force in charge of overseeing anti-doping reforms in Russia has recommended that whistleblower Yulia Stepanova be allowed to compete at the Olympics as an independent athlete. Stepanova was banned by the IAAF on February 26, 2013 for two years after abnormalities were found in her biological passport.

Along with her husband, Vitaly Stepanov, she gave information that led to a broad investigation of doping inside Russia.

The 800-metre runner has asked to be able to compete at the Olympics, and the IAAF task force recommended she be allowed to because of the "extraordinary contribution" she has made to the anti-doping effort.

"The truth had to be told but it hasn't been easy," Stepanova told CBC's Adrienne Arsenault. 

"In the bigger picture, what's really important is cheating affects not just Russia but the whole world," Stepanov said to Arsenault.

Individual Russian athletes not tainted by doping can apply to compete as "neutral athletes," according to the IAAF.

Coe said his federation, not the IOC, decides who competes in the Olympic track meet.

Andersen also spoke about the difficulty of picking out who really is a "clean" athlete in Russia.

"Because the system in Russia has been tainted by doping from the top level down, we cannot trust that what we call `clean' athletes really are clean," Andersen said.

He said the IAAF has left a "very tiny crack in the door" for Russian athletes to compete at the Olympics as an independent. But they would have to prove they were subject to a reliable drug-testing regime run outside Russia.

Response to the decision

The Russian track and field federation is considering an appeal against the IAAF's decision to uphold its ban from international competitions, including the Olympics.

Asked if an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sports was possible, general secretary Mikhail Butov told The Associated Press that the federation needs time to consider Friday's ruling, but "of course we will use all opportunities to protect the athletes."

The IOC said it has "taken note" of the IAAF's decision and its executive board will meet by teleconference on Saturday to "discuss the next appropriate steps."

The IOC has already scheduled a summit of sports leaders next Tuesday to address "the difficult decision between collective responsibility and individual justice."

Canada's anti-doping agency applauded the IAAF's decision to uphold the ban. Several international track and field federations, including Athletics Canada, reached out to Coe and the IAAF in the lead-up to Friday's decision.

However, TASS reported that Russian Olympic pole vault champion Yelena Isinbayeva intends to prove in court that the ban is a violation of human rights. Isinbayeva said she is angry that no one is defending her and her team, and that they are being discriminated against by the IAAF and WADA because they are Russian.

Isinbayeva, who made the statement in May, called the IAAF's decision "a discrimination because of nationality principles."

Russian President Vladimir Putin has condemned as unfair Friday's decision by the IAAF to uphold a ban on competition for Russian track and field athletes. 

Speaking to foreign media at a late evening round-table on Friday Putin said the IAAF — track's world governing body -- meted out "collective" punishment that has hurt clean athletes. 

In an unprecedented ruling loaded with geopolitical ramifications, the IAAF on Friday upheld its ban on Russia's track and field federation, saying the country had made some progress in cleaning up but failed to meet the requirements for reinstatement and would be barred from sending its athletes to the Rio Games that begin in 50 days. 

With files from The Associated Press and Reuters

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