Russia's Rio hopes at stake as IAAF votes
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[June 17, 2016]
By Shadia Nasralla and Dmitry Solovyov
VIENNA/MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia said
on Friday it was ready to do everything from a legal point of view
to defend Russian athletes if they are banned from taking part in
the Rio Olympics over doping allegations.
The Kremlin staked out its position as the International
Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) met in Vienna to rule on
whether Russia had done enough for a ban on its athletes competing
in international competitions to be overturned.
Russia was suspended from all track and field by the IAAF in
November after an independent report from the World Anti-Doping
Agency (WADA) revealed widespread state-sponsored doping. A task
force has been studying how much reform Russia has made.
"Obviously, everything possible needed to defend the rights of our
athletes and the Olympic team is being done and will be done at a
legal level," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters in
"But at the same time, there is comprehensive cooperation with the
relevant international organizations and their divisions which is
underway. This is a purposeful policy line ordered by the president
of Russia – in anti-doping fighting and in investigating those known
cases of suspected doping use," he said.
The vote by the IAAF should in theory be decisive but the
International Olympic Committee (IOC), concerned about innocent
athletes being punished, has said it might yet overrule when it
meets the following week.
In an open letter to IAAF president Sebastian Coe, Russian Sports
Minister Vitaly Mutko said Russia had met all the conditions asked
of it, including overhauling its disgraced athletics association and
introducing additional testing for athletes before the Rio Games.
"Clean athletes who have dedicated years of their lives to training
and who never sought to gain unfair advantage through doping should
not be punished for the past actions of other individuals," Mutko
"Additionally, Russia’s athletes must not be singled out as the only
ones to be punished for a problem that is widely acknowledged to go
far beyond our country’s borders."
But Russia's hopes of winning over doubters may have been dashed on
Wednesday when WADA released another report containing extraordinary
accounts of the lengths some athletes have gone to avoid being
It said that Russian athletes have continued to fail drug tests in
large numbers and obstruct doping control officers in the months
when they are supposed to be showing there has been a change of
culture in their approach to the problem.
"No one wants to see even one innocent athlete suffer in this, but
such blatant disregard for the rules of our sport and the concept of
fair play should receive a strong message that it will not be
tolerated," British world marathon record holder Paula Radcliffe
told Reuters on Thursday.
[to top of second column]
A man casts his shadow following a press conference by Sebastian
Coe, IAAF's President, as part of the 203nd International
Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) council meeting in
Monaco, March 11, 2016. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard
"Whether or not the IOC choose to punish and investigate further
(since clearly this was never limited to track and field but rather
all Russian sport) I feel the IAAF has to be strong on this,"
Radcliffe said in an email after the WADA report.
"The message needs to get out loud and clear - We will not tolerate
cheats in our sport and will take strong action to protect the
rights of the clean athletes to compete on a fair and level playing
Canada's athletics federation also urged a tough stand, saying that
Russian track and field athletes should not be allowed to compete at
"Athletics Canada feels strongly there is little evidence of a
reversal in a systematic and deep rooted doping culture in Russian
Athletics, and therefore there is no justification to grant
re-inclusion," chief executive Rob Guy said in an open letter to
Russia says it is being unfairly victimized, while other countries
that have fallen foul of the WADA code, including distance running
specialists Kenya and Ethiopia, are free to compete.
How the IAAF and IOC act most likely could be a defining moment in
the fight against doping.
"My gut feeling is that some of the folks in the IOC bubble have no
sense of the collective outrage if it makes the wrong decision,"
Dick Pound, a long-standing IOC member and co-author of the report
that led to Russia's ban, told Reuters.
"It is not like we are talking about Sierra Leone here."
The IOC has called an Olympic Summit for June 21 in Lausanne to
decide on Russia's participation, when other issues, such as claims
of a complex system to beat the anti-doping system at the Sochi
Winter Olympics, will also be on the table.
(Additonal reporting by Gene Cherry and Jack Stubbs, Editing by
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