IAAF debates bringing Russian athletes in from the cold
The world governing body of athletics will decide Sunday whether to allow Russia back into international competition after a ban that has already lasted two years following claims of state-sponsored doping.
The ruling by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) will set the tone for a crucial International Olympic Committee (IOC) meeting on 5-7 December on whether Russia can compete at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Russia was banned from international athletics in November 2015, preventing its track and field athletes from competing at the 2016 Rio Olympics and this year’s World Championships in London.
Former world champion sprint hurdler Sergey Shubenkov was one of the Russian athletes forced to compete as a neutral in London.
He said there should not be a “blanket ban” for Russia’s Winter Olympians.
“Everybody who is not involved in the scandal should be allowed to compete wearing their national colours,” he told the BBC.
IAAF President Sebastian Coe told AFP in October that he had seen “progress” in “meeting the criteria” set for Russia’s return to athletics.
But events in recent days may well have weakened Russia’s case.
First the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) decided to maintain its suspension of Russia, a decision slammed by the Kremlin as “unfair”.
Then on Friday, the IOC annulled the titles Alexander Zubkov won in the two-man and four-man bobsleigh at the 2014 Russian-hosted Sochi Winter Olympics following hearings by its commission into state-sponsored doping.
That followed punishments announced Wednesday for four Russian skeleton competitors.
Russia’s bobsleigh and skeleton federation responded to that decision by saying they were prepared to take legal action against the IOC.
A rush of rulings this week means that, in total, the IOC has punished 14 Russian Olympians on the recommendation of a commission headed by Swiss sports official Denis Oswald set up to investigate evidence of doping with state involvement.
It means Russia has lost nine medals, including four of its 13 golds, from the Games they hosted in February 2014.
Bernard Amsalem, a senior IAAF official and the former head of France’s athletics federation, said the Russian state “remains in complete” denial about doping.
“I do not see how we can lift the suspension because one of the main conditions we have set has not been met,” he said.
“If the Russian bodies to regulate and monitor doping have not been approved by WADA, I cannot see how the IAAF can go further.”