- IAAF sees ‘deep-seated tolerance’ for doping in Russian sport
- Individual athletes can apply to compete as independents
Russia’s track-and-field athletes won’t be able to compete in this year’s Olympics after an international governing body upheld an earlier ban, saying the country’s sports system is tainted by systematic doping.
By refusing to reinstate the Russian Athletics Federation, the International Association of Athletics Federations also bars the athletes from international competition including the Rio games, IAAF President Sebastian Coe said at a meeting in Vienna on Friday.
“The IAAF Council was unanimous that ... Russian athletes could not credibly return to international competition without undermining the confidence of their competitors and the public,” said Coe.
Russian athletes and officials had pleaded against a ban on the whole team, saying it unfairly punished athletes who were not doping. “Clean athletes’ dreams are being destroyed because of the reprehensible behavior of other athletes and officials,” the Russian Sports Ministry said in a statement. “They have sacrificed years of their lives striving to compete at the Olympics and now that sacrifice looks likely to be wasted.”
The IAAF suggested that individual Russian athletes who can “clearly and convincingly” prove they aren’t part of the “tainted” Russian system might be allowed to compete as independent athletes in international competitions.
While the International Olympic Committee is meeting next week to discuss the case, Coe said that it was up to the IAAF to determine who can compete in track and field events at the games. “I’m not prejudging any conversation or deliberation, but it is a very clear proposition that the eligibility for athletes to compete internationally sits and lies with the IAAF,” Coe said.
The Russian track-and-field team has been banned from competition since last year after the World Anti-Doping Agency found systematic attempts by athletes, coaches, doctors and Russia’s Federal Security Service to cover up doping. Russian President Vladimir Putin has denied any coordinated, state-sponsored effort.
“We are categorically against any doping,” Putin said Friday at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. Still, he said, “the whole team shouldn’t be punished for those who committed these violations.”
WADA documented continuing violations in a report released Wednesday. Since a U.K.-based anti-doping agency took over testing in February because its Russian counterpart lost its accreditation, athletes were unavailable for screening in 73 of 455 tests conducted through the end of May, WADA said.
The report said athletes who couldn’t be tested often gave closed military cities as their locations, and when drug testers tried to access these sites, armed police threatened them with expulsion. In one incident, an athlete attempted to smuggle in a urine sample, which leaked, and she then tried to bribe the drug tester.
‘Culture of Tolerance’
In the months since WADA’s initial ban, the Russian Federation had not made the kinds of substantive reforms that would have allowed it to return to international competition, the IAAF said in a statement.
“The deep-seated culture of tolerance (or worse) for doping that led to RusAF being suspended in the first place appears not to have changed materially to date,” the IAAF said. “A strong and effective anti-doping infrastructure capable of detecting and deterring doping has still not been created.”
The Kremlin has dismissed reports of government involvement, including a German TV report this month that accused Mutko of participating in the cover-up of a state-sponsored doping program.
“There wasn’t any support for violations in sports at a state level in Russia, it’s not possible,” Putin said Friday. “The problem of doping isn’t just a Russian problem. It’s a problem for the whole world of sports.”
The IOC has requested an investigation on charges of Russian doping during the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi. If the allegations are proven, it would represent an “unprecedented level of criminality” that could lead to additional suspensions, chairman Thomas Bach said in May.
Last month, the New York Times published a story that alleged Russia ran a widespread state doping program at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, citing interviews with Grigory Rodchenkov, the former head of an anti-doping laboratory in Moscow.
Russia’s Federal Investigative Committee said on Saturday it has started a criminal case against Rodchenkov for abuse of office. The case is based on Rodchenkov’s interviews with multiple media organizations, in which he disclosed his participation in violating antidoping regulations, the Committee said.
IAAF’s decision to ban athletes is discriminatory and Russia will fight for the right of its sportsmen, deputy prime minister Arkady Dvorkovich said in St. Petersburg on Saturday, according to Interfax.
If the suspension holds, the Russian track team won’t be the only ones banned from Rio amid doping allegations. The Bulgarian weightlifters were given a similar punishment last year. That said, track -- and Russia -- loom larger on the Olympic stage.
The timing of today’s announcement, less than two months before the beginning of the Summer Games, isn’t bad for the Olympics or the sport, said Paul Swangard, a longtime track-and-field announcer who will be working at the games in Rio.
Also, the IAAF’s proposed compromise to allow clean Russian runners to compete separately will send a message to individual athletes around the world that they can preserve their Olympic dreams by separating themselves from illicit cheating within their federations.
"That’s their attempt to find a happy medium in this," Swangard said. "Athletes know they can be protected and ultimately vindicated from an overarching culture that is asking or requiring them to do it a different way. They have an out."