Sebastian Coe, the president of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), said the revelations had been a “shameful wake up call” following a vote of the organisation’s council on Friday night after a three-and-a-half-hour meeting.
After the Russian council member Mikhail Butov outlined Russia’s response to the devastating findings of a World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) independent report, chaired by Dick Pound, he left the conference call and the other members voted 22-1 to provisionally suspend.
“We have been dealing with the failure of [the All Russia Athletic Federation] and made the decision to provisionally suspend them, the toughest sanction we can apply at this time,” said Lord Coe, adding that the system had failed athletes not just in Russia but around the world.
“This has been a shameful wake up call and we are clear that cheating at any level will not be tolerated.
“To this end, the IAAF, Wada, the member federations and athletes need to look closely at ourselves, our cultures and our processes to identify where failures exist and be tough in our determination to fix them and rebuild trust in our sport. There can be no more important focus for our sport.”
Before the decision was announced, Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko said that collective punishments were “very unfair” and that key athletes were upset at the prospect, but also said the country would do whatever was required to avoid missing next summer’s Rio Olympics.
Mutko also claimed to Russia Today that the IAAF, itself heavily criticised by the Wada commission amid allegations of corruption and cover ups, had hidden 155 test results since 2008 and that just 15 of those related to Russia.
The IAAF’s provisional suspension will remain in place while a formal hearing takes place. If the suspension is upheld, it will result in the imposition of a number of conditions with which the Russians must comply before they are allowed back into the fold.
The IAAF said an inspection team led by Norwegian anti-doping expert Rune Anderson would be formed in the coming days. Attention is then likely to shift to whether the Russian team will be readmitted before the Rio 2016 Olympics.
A Wada spokesman welcomed the suspension as “positive news for clean athletes worldwide”. But the Usada chief executive, Travis Tygart, sounded a note of caution. “While it is somewhat promising, the real test now is to ensure full justice and accountability for all their actions before being allowed to compete again,” he said.
Mutko said the decision was “very strange” but added: “Our reaction is calm. We didn’t expect anything else.” He said Russia could be readmitted in time for the world indoor championships in March.
The ban, which comes into force immediately, will see the country barred from competing in next month’s European Cross Country Championships in France and could also rule them out of the World Indoor Championships in Portland in March. Russia will also be banned from hosting the 2016 World Race Walking Cup, scheduled for Cheboksary, or the 2016 World Junior Championships in Kazan.
The emergency meeting of the IAAF council came at the end of a week in which pressure had grown on the governing body to act in the wake of Pound’s damning 325-page report.
Coe, who took over in August having spent eight years as a vice president to Lamine Diack, is himself under pressure over his fulsome praise for his predecessor and his refusal to give up his role at Nike amid allegations of a conflict of interest.
Martyn Rooney, the sprinter who captained the British team at the world championships in Beijing, said Coe had been “naive”.
“It is pretty disrespectful to believe the vice president did not know what was going on within the IAAF,” he told the BBC on Friday.
“That is his job and if he believes he did not know what was going on he has not been doing his job properly.”
Mutko has recounted the steps Russia had already taken to fight doping and argued with some of Wada’s findings, suggesting the report was politically motivated. But he also said Vladimir Putin had given clear orders to cooperate fully with international sport organisations at an extraordinary late-night meeting with the heads of all of Russia’s sporting federations on Wednesday.
Wada, which on Tuesday derecognised the Moscow lab, on Friday declared the Russian Anti-Doping Agency non-compliant with its code. The culture, media and sport select committee have confirmed that Coe would appear before them on 2 December to answer questions on the doping scandals that have submerged the IAAF and his continued links with Nike.
On Friday night the IAAF also revealed that Coe had appointed Paul Deighton, the highly regarded former chief executive of the London 2012 organising committee, to oversee reform of the organisation.
The Pound report, commissioned in the wake of a devastating German documentary broadcast by ARD in December last year, revealed the existence of a second “shadow lab” designed to filter out positive tests and the destruction of 1,714 samples shortly before Wada officials came to visit.
Pound’s report said a number of Russian athletes suspected of doping could have been prevented from competing in 2012 had it not been for “the collective and inexplicable laissez-faire policy” adopted by the IAAF and the Russian federation.
The report not only laid bare the scale of state-sponsored doping in Russia, but also claimed the London 2012 Olympics had been effectively sabotaged. The IAAF, where senior officials – including former president Diack – were recently arrested by French prosecutors, also came in for heavy criticism as the report found “corruption and bribery practices at the highest levels of international athletics”.
Wada, which commissioned Pound’s report, was also criticised for being too “diffident” in its approach.
The whistleblowers, Vitaliy and Yulia Stepanov, initially approached Wada in 2013 but turned to ARD journalist Hajo Seppelt when they felt their claims were not being taken seriously.
Pound held back the chapter of his report that dealt with Diack and other senior IAAF officials who have been arrested by French police as part of an Interpol investigation, after the Senegalese former president was accused of accepting €1m in bribes to cover up positive tests.
French prosecutors have also said that former IAAF marketing consultant Papa Massata Diack, Lamine’s son, would have been arrested as part of the investigation had he set foot in the country.
Russian state officials began the week by decrying the report as a “political hit job” and questioning the lack of evidence contained therein. The tone has become more emollient as the week has worn on, however.
The controversial head of the Moscow lab, immediately de-recognised by Wada, has resigned and sports minister Vitaly Mutko said he could be replaced by a foreigner if necessary to restore confidence.
The head of the Russian athletics federation, Valentin Balakhnichev – also a former IAAF treasurer, had already left his post. His acting successor, Vadim Zelichenok, said ahead of the council meeting: “We admit some things, we argue with some things, some are already fixed, it’s a variety.”Vladimir Putin also ordered his own investigation while stressing that innocent athletes should not be punished by exclusion from the Rio 2016 Games.
Taken together with comments from International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach that suggested Russia could get its house in order in time for next summer’s Games, the country appeared increasingly likely to accept a short term ban in the belief it would be allowed to return before next August.
Russia is only the fifth country to be banned from competition in the IAAF’s 103-year history and the first to be barred for systemic doping.
This article was written by Owen Gibson Chief sports correspondent, for theguardian.com on Friday 13th November 2015 22.23 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010