Russia has been warned it requires “significant further work” in tackling doping if its athletes are to be admitted to the Olympics, while another five countries were placed in “critical care” over their testing procedures.
The Guardian understands that the five countries named on a new watch list – Kenya, Morocco, Ethiopia, Ukraine and Belarus – could be banned from competition themselves, underlining the depth of the doping crisis facing the sport. Those nations have been given until November to improve their systems and their participation in the Rio games is not in jeopardy.
Sebastian Coe, president of the International Association of Athletics Federations, said Ethiopia and Morocco must introduce “robust and adequate national testing programmes both in and out of competition as a matter of urgency”.
Meanwhile the other three have been placed on a monitoring list to ensure their national anti-doping programmes are “significantly strengthened”.
Coe said the decision should act as a “wake-up call” to the countries concerned. Kenya and Ethiopia, in particular, have recently been in the cross hairs over a rash of doping violations and, in the case of the former, corruption claims.
A special council meeting in May will decide whether Russia should be readmitted to the sport in time for the Rio Olympics. Either way the issue will cast a large cloud over the Games.
“While progress has been made, the Council unanimously agreed the Russian authorities need to undertake further significant work to satisfy the reinstatement conditions, so Rusaf [the Russian Athletics Federation] should not be reinstated at this stage,” said Coe.
He also said the independent IAAF task force would consider a request by Yulia Stepanova, the whistleblower whose undercover work informed the German documentary that blew the lid off the Russian doping scandal, to appear at the Rio Games.
Rune Andersen, head of the task force charged with deciding whether Russia should be welcomed back to international competition after Wada’s damning verdict in November, said culture change in Russian athletics could take years.
“What I mentioned in my introduction was one criterion that is very important – changing the culture of doping in Russia. That is not an easy task and that might take years to do. So we are looking into whether the Russians can change the culture of anti-doping in Russia,” he said.
The odds against Russia being allowed to return to competition in time for Rio lengthened last weekend when a new ARD documentary showed banned coaches were still operating in the country and alleged the new head of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency, Anna Anzelovich, had previously informed athletes in advance about dates for doping tests.
Andersen said he was “very concerned” by the contents of the documentary and would be pursuing it with the Russian authorities.
The widespread state-sponsored doping issues in Russia spiralled into a crisis for the IAAF when it emerged that Lamine Diack, Coe’s predecessor, was part of a cabal who delayed positive tests and blackmailed athletes.
Coe insisted that a new governance structure drawn up by former London 2012 chief executive Paul Deighton would be “transformational” and would “return trust to the organisation and trust to the track and to the field” and “enable us to become a beacon of best practice in sport”.
Andersen also underlined the scale of the task facing Russia if it is to return to competition.
“They need to go into the findings of the Wada anti-doping commission. Look into the athletes that have been banned, their connections and so forth. It is a big job that needs to be done and they are just at the beginning of doing this.”
Dick Pound, the former Wada president who oversaw the investigation into Russian doping and associated corruption at the IAAF, said this week that it appeared to be “rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic” and had a “steep hill” to climb in order to return. Mikhail Butov, the general secretary of the Russian athletics federation, said he had not given up hope of returning to competition in time for Rio. The sports minister, Vitaly Mutko, said there were “no insurmountable obstacles” to Russia returning in time for the Games. Butov said they had been told they needed to change the culture among coaches and accelerate interviews with athletes and their entourages who were guilty of doping. Butov also claimed that Stepanova, living abroad and in fear of her life, would be welcome to return and compete for Russia.
A frustrated Mutko said he did not know what else Russia had to do to prove it was dealing with the problem of doping.
“I can get on the table if you like, and dance, or sing a song. I really don’t know what else we need to do? I want the whole world to understand this: we never said Russia never had a problem with doping,” he said. “We never said that. We do have problems. We never said we have no problems in athletics. We do. But this is not only a Russian problem. Doping is a problem in world sport. Not only athletics, but other sports too. There are problems that everyone should worry about: like doping, match fixing, security. The whole world should solve these together.”
Coe also revealed that Adidas would maintain its sponsorship arrangement until the end of the year but had made no promises beyond that. The sportswear giant had been considering ending its sponsorship over the doping crisis gripping the sport.
The IAAF president, who took over from Diack in August having been a vice president for seven years, also responded to a petition signed by athletes including Paula Radcliffe calling for athletes who were caught doping to return their prize money.
“I haven’t yet seen the petition. There are strong feelings about this among the athletes,” he said. “We will look at this but it is not that straightforward.”
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