Friday 23 March 2018

Sebastian Coe: We have not stopped clean athletes from competing, Russia has failed them

IAAF president Sebastian Coe Photo: AFP/Getty Images
IAAF president Sebastian Coe Photo: AFP/Getty Images

IAAF president Lord Coe insists Russia, not his organisation, is responsible for the country's drug-free athletes being banned from competing at this summer's Olympics.

The governing body's 27-strong council unanimously decided at a meeting in Vienna on Friday to extend Russia's suspension from international competition for doping offences, ruling that the criteria for reinstatement had not been met.

Russian president Vladimir Putin has labelled the ban "unjust and unfair" while pole vault star Yelena Isinbayeva repeated her threat to sue the IAAF and the International Olympic Committe for an infringement of her human rights if prevented from competing. The IOC stated on Saturday that it "fully respects" the IAAF's decision.

Coe said the continuing sanction proved the IAAF's commitment to cleaning up the sport and defended its impact on clean athletes.

He wrote in the Sunday Telegraph: "In some quarters, the suspension in November was (seen as) only a slap across the wrist while we figured out how, in short order, we could get Russian athletes back into the athletics competitions in Rio. Even the creation of the taskforce, which presented its damning finding to us on Friday, was viewed as purely a cosmetic exercise. Friday's decision could not be further from this.

"So, we are now faced with critics claiming we have made an unfair decision on clean athletes in Russia. I want to be very, very clear on this. We did not make a decision on clean athletes. We evaluated a system and a culture within which all athletes in Russia are competing. A tainted system that cast doubts on every athlete who is part of it."

Rune Anderson, the head of the IAAF taskforce in Russia, on Friday spoke of "a very tiny crack in the door" for athletes training outside Russia in a "credible" system to compete in Rio, though not under a Russian banner.

Coe denied that caveat - which will also apply to Yuliya Stepanova, the 800 metres runner who became a whistleblower on the state of the Russian anti-doping system - was politically or geographically motivated.

He continued: "We all recognise there are Russian athletes (who) made the tough personal decision to get out and are now training in systems that are effective and safe. It is these athletes we believe should be offered the opportunity to compete, not for Russia, but for themselves and for all clean athletes.

"I am comfortable with the choices I have made and I know that the work my council, my team and I are doing within the IAAF will change this sport for ever. It is worth fighting for.

"There was no back-slapping after we made that decision, there was only a feeling of deep sadness that a country should have so badly failed its athletes and been the architects of their dismissal from the biggest sporting event on the planet.

"We have not prevented clean athletes from Russia from competing, rather the Russian system has cataclysmically failed their clean athletes."

Online Editors

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