VIENNA: Scandal-hit Russia will likely discover Friday that it has not done enough to get back into world track and field’s governing body, the IAAF, in time for its athletes to compete at the Rio Olympics.
The 27-member IAAF Council meets in Vienna to decide whether to readmit Russia under the presidency of Sebastian Coe, himself the target of allegations that he enlisted the help of the fugitive son of disgraced predecessor Lamine Diack to secure his election last year.
The IAAF provisionally suspended the All-Russian Athletic Federation (ARAF) in November over a bombshell report by a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) independent commission that said there was state-sponsored doping and mass corruption in Russian athletics.
Coe has previously stressed that the ban will only be lifted if there is clear evidence of a “verifiable change both in anti-doping practice and culture”.
The ban has already been extended once, in March, and following the latest damning WADA report released on Wednesday, the likelihood of Russia’s immediate re-inclusion looks remote.
WADA’s new report said hundreds of attempts to carry out drug tests on Russian athletes this year had been thwarted, with drug testers facing intimidation and threats from armed Russian security forces while athletes continued to evade doping control officers.
The WADA summary, which was compiled with the help of UK Anti-Doping, said more than 736 tests between February 15 and May 29 were declined or cancelled for a variety of reasons ranging from sample collection to athlete whereabouts.
“What really comes through, when you read through it page by page by page, is the number of occasions when there was simply no cooperation given,” former WADA president Dick Pound, co-author of the initial report into doping in Russia, told the BBC.
Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko has wavered between contrite apology and brash counter-attack as Moscow lobbies heavily for its reinclusion in time for the Rio Games.
“At the end of the day we have fulfilled all the criteria, everything that they demanded of us. All the athletes are under control,” a defiant Mutko told Interfax news agency on Thursday.
“There were 100 criteria presented to us, and in my opinion we have fulfilled them all.” In its bid to overturn the ban, Russia has announced a raft of reforms including changing top officials and introducing compulsory anti-doping classes in schools to reform attitudes toward the use of performance-enhancing drugs.
Russia’s anti-doping agency RUSADA will develop a special curriculum, based on WADA guidelines, for the 3,000 sports schools where the country’s elite athletes train.
IOC olive branch?
Commentators have suggested that the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which is to meet in Lausanne on June 21 on eligibility issues, could offer an olive branch to Russia by opening up participation in Rio for certain doping-vetted Russian athletes.
“It’s a plausible option,” French athletics federation president and IAAF Council member Bernard Amsalem told AFP.
Russian Olympic Committee head Alexander Zhukov said there were about 100 track and field athletes on Russia’s Olympic team and barring them from Rio would be a “blow to the Olympic movement”.
“The Olympic Charter is based on the premise that everyone should participate,” he told Echo of Moscow radio station, adding he hoped that the IAAF makes an “objective, balanced decision” Friday.
Russian athletes have criticised the blanket federation ban, saying clean competitors should not assume collective responsibility.
Mutko spoke of the “constant pressure now on the commission and the IAAF Council”, and also hinted at possible legal action should Russian athletes not be reinstated.
But Australia’s athletics chief Phil Jones said it would be “shocking” if Russia was admitted to Rio, while Australia’s John Coates, an IOC vice president, said Russia’s anti-doping agency and athletics body had been “rotten to the core”.
Coates, president of the Australian Olympic Committee, slammed a “massive injustice” on Friday as he belatedly awarded a London 2012 Olympics gold medal to Australia’s Jared Tallent, who was promoted from silver after a Russian doping case.