Wednesday 12 December 2018

Russia's athletics ban extended into fourth year despite controversial Wada reinstatement

Russian track and field athletes have not been able to compete under their own flag since 2015 CREDIT: AFP
Russian track and field athletes have not been able to compete under their own flag since 2015 CREDIT: AFP

Ben Bloom

Russian athletes will remain unable to compete under their own flag after the sport's governing body extended the country's ban into a fourth year on Tuesday.

The Russian Athletics Federation (Rusaf) were initially suspended in November 2015 when a World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) report revealed widespread doping in the country.

Wada then controversially decided to reinstate the Russian Anti-Doping Agency this September on the condition that Russia recognise the findings of that report and allow access to their stored urine samples from the Moscow laboratory before a December 31 deadline.

With those two conditions yet to be fully met, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) have held firm on their ban and voted to extend it for a ninth time. The IAAF are also seeking compensation for their own costs involved in investigating Russian doping over the past few years.

Rune Andersen, IAAF taskforce chairman, said: "The IAAF Council accepted the taskforce's recommendations not to reinstate Rusaf until the following two conditions have been met in full.

"The Athletics Integrity Unit must confirm that it has been given all of the data and access to the samples that it needs to determine which of the Russian athletes in the database have a case to answer for breach of the IAAF anti-doping rules.

"The IAAF Council was clear that Russian athletes cannot return to international competition unconditionally until that issue is resolved one way or the other.

"Secondly, Rusaf must pay all of the costs incurred in the work of the taskforce and in bringing or defending Russia cases at the CAS (Court of Arbitration for Sport). The IAAF Council was clear that this debt must be settled for reinstatement to occur. It is not fair to ask the IAAF and its other members to continue to carry these costs.

"The taskforce hopes that Rusaf and the Russian authorities will now take all steps necessary to meet these conditions as soon as possible."

Despite accepting there was extensive doping in the country, Russian authorities have continually denied any of it was state-sponsored.

Weeks after Wada ended Russia's suspension in September, Rusaf launched a legal challenge to overturn the athletics ban by appealing to the CAS. That appeal is yet to be heard.

A number of Russians have competed internationally as neutral athletes since the ban was implemented, provided they meet certain criteria that show they operate in a drugs-free environment. High jumper Mariya Lasitskene was among Russians to triumph under a neutral flag at last year's London World Championships.

The latest extension means Russia is highly likely not to have a team at the Glasgow European Indoor Championships in March as the IAAF Council does not meet again until after that competition. They could yet be reinstated in time for the Doha World Championships next September.

Wada came in for considerable criticism when ending Russia's suspension three months ago, with the organisation's former director general David Howman saying it was a triumph for money over clean sport.

He said: "Wada has gone from being an organisation that cared about clean athletes to one that cares about international federations that have not been able to stage events in Russia: it's money over principle. That is a quite a difference, quite a swing, from what Wada once was."

Nicole Sapstead, the chief executive of UK Anti-Doping, said the decision showed Wada was "not sufficiently independent", adding that the agency had "cast aside its responsibilities to clean athletes, sports fans and those who work tirelessly for clean sport".

Becki Scott, a Canadian former cross-country skiing Olympic champion and chair of the Wada athlete committee, resigned in disgust at the decision.

Meanwhile, Budapest has been confirmed as hosts for the 2023 World Championships, following Doha in 2019 and Eugene in 2021.

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