Saturday 21 October 2017

Russian athletics boss apologies to wronged athletes but fails to overturn global competition ban

Russian Athletics Federation President Dmitry Shlyakhtin talks to the media at a press conference ahead of the 26th Russian Winter Athletics Indoor Meeting scheduled for February 4-5, 2017 in Moscow. Vladimir Gerdo/TASS (Photo by Vladimir Gerdo\TASS via Getty Images)
Russian Athletics Federation President Dmitry Shlyakhtin talks to the media at a press conference ahead of the 26th Russian Winter Athletics Indoor Meeting scheduled for February 4-5, 2017 in Moscow. Vladimir Gerdo/TASS (Photo by Vladimir Gerdo\TASS via Getty Images)

Matt Slater

The head of Russia's athletics federation (RusAF) has apologised to all who lost medals to Russian dopers but it was not enough to persuade the sport's bosses to lift his nation's global competition ban.

Addressing the International Association of Athletics Federation's (IAAF) Congress in London, Dmitry Shylakhtin went further than any Russian official has gone before in acknowledging the scale of his country's doping, and issued the closest statement to a full apology for that cheating.

Having described the IAAF's decision to suspend RusAF in November 2015 as "correct", Shylakhtin said: "I'd like to apologise to all athletes who have had gold and silver medals snatched from them on behalf of the leadership of the Russian federation."

He then listed the changes RusAF has made in terms of personnel, the athletes and coaches it has disqualified and the cooperation it has given to the French and Russian criminal investigations into the bribery and doping scandals.

Shylakhtin explained there was considerable resistance to his new team from the old RusAF regime but the situation had completely changed now, both within the sport and at the highest levels of government.

"Our president Vladimir Putin has said there were failures in the anti-doping system and that must change, and when he says it has to be done it will be done," he said.

Shylakhtin then said Russia's parliament will approve strict anti-doping laws in the autumn and RusAF will continue to hold seminars with athletes and coaches to instil a new mentality, as well as encouraging whistle-blowers to use a hotline to report cheating.

But, with his allotted 10 minutes running out, he then appealed to the delegates' sympathy, saying the ban was having a devastating effect on Russian athletics, with coaches leaving, no television coverage, revenues down and youngsters moving to other sports.

Shylakhtin's speech was followed by Rune Andersen, the head of the IAAF's Russian task force, who told the Congress progress had been made but it had not been "smooth".

Referring to the IAAF's criteria for Russian reinstatement, Andersen said there were still six areas where Russia had to more to do, including an acknowledgement of guilt from the Ministry of Sport and National Olympic Committee, which is something the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and International Paralympic Committee have also requested.

Andersen said: "Their fate is in their own hands and they can complete this without much further delay, perhaps as soon as November. When they do that, the task force will be ready to recommend their return."

IAAF president Lord Coe then invited the 187 national federation delegates present to either approve or reject the unanimous recommendation made by his council on Monday to continue RusAF's suspension. That motion was backed by 166 votes to 21.

While RusAF remains banned, there will be 19 Russians competing at the 2017 World Athletics Championships, which start in London on Friday, as neutral athletes. They have been individually vetted by the IAAF's new Athletics Integrity Unit.

Russia's status within the sport is unlikely to change now until WADA reinstates the Russian anti-doping agency, which cannot happen until November at the earliest.

Press Association

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