Millennium Post

Russia faces exile as IAAF decides doping fate

Russia, accused of “state-sponsored” doping, said on Friday it was ready to establish a new anti-doping agency hours before world athletics chiefs meet to take action which could eventually lead to Russian athletes being excluded from the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Sebastian Coe, the recently-elected president of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), will not be at the organisation’s headquarters in Monaco but will preside from London over a conference call of the body’s 27 elected members at around 1800GMT.

Russian Mikhail Butov, an IAAF council member and secretary general of the Russian Athletics Federation will “present the ARAF position” before being “excluded from the remainder of the debate and voting”, the IAAF said in a statement.

A simple majority is all that will be needed to confirm a suspension for Russia who were accused of widespread doping by an independent commission set up by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) in a report which has shaken track and field, one of the Olympic Games’ flagship attractions.

Awaiting the verdict, Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko said before the IAAF meeting that Moscow was ready to reform or “create a new anti-doping organisation” if the IAAF or WADA demanded it.

Mutko also broached the idea of appointing a “foreign specialist” as head of the doping laboratory, a move towards openness never before seen in Russian sport.

The 335-page WADA report blasted Russian officials for blackmailing athletes to cover up positive tests as well as destroying test samples.

Although Russian officials are expected to offer an olive branch by admitting to some cases of cheating, the IAAF is under huge pressure to take strong action less than a year from the Rio Olympics.

“Europe will support Sebastian Coe. We have full confidence in him. We are all on the same page,” Svein Arne Hansen, the president of European Athletics, told Britain’s Daily Telegraph. However, one leading IAAF council member, former Ukraine pole-vaulter Sergei Bubka, warned that it would be wrong to punish innocent athletes. “All those involved, officials, managers or coaches, must pay the price,” Bubka told reporters.

“But ordinary athletes, those who have nothing to do with this matter, should not have to miss a single competition.” 

On Thursday, Russia sent a formal reply to the allegations. Acting president of Russia’s athletics federation Vadim Zelichenok said that it had produced the response “in such a way as to try to prove our innocence”.

“How many pages is it? One or 100, it’s not important,” he added. In another development, Russia’s Olympic Committee president Alexander Zhukov flew into Lausanne in Switzerland Thursday evening for talks with International Olympic Committee chief Thomas Bach, R-Sport reported. The fallout from the WADA report’s damning conclusions reached as far up as Russian President Vladimir Putin who ordered officials to launch their own internal investigation and cooperate with international anti-doping authorities.

“We must do everything in Russia to rid ourselves of this problem,” said Putin, an avid sportsman who led Russia’s bid to host last year’s Winter Olympics and the 2018 football World Cup. However, he added: “This problem does not exist only in Russia, but if our foreign colleagues have questions, we must answer them.” 
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