IAAF Bans Russian Track & Field Athletes From Rio Games

From USA Today

Russia’s track and field athletes will not be able to compete in the Rio Olympics, the International Association of Athletics Federations announced Friday, but individual athletes do have a way forward to compete as a neutral athlete.

In a historic decision, the IAAF voted unanimously to extend a ban of the All Russian Athletics Federation (RusAF) that has kept its athletes out of international competition since a World Anti-Doping Agency independent commission report released in November concluded Russia was running a state-sponsored doping program in athletics.

Noting significant progress toward satisfying verification criteria being monitored by an IAAF task force, Rune Andersen, chair of that group, said several other criteria have not been satisfied.

“In particular, the deep-seated culture of tolerance, or worse, for doping, that got RusAF suspended in the first place appears not to have been changed materially, to date,” he said in a news conference announcing the IAAF decision.

“The head coach of the Russian athletic team and many of the athletes on that team appear unwilling to acknowledge the nature and extent of the doping problem in Russian athletics, and certain athletes and coaches appear willing to ignore the doping rules. A strong and effective anti-doping infrastructure capable of detecting and deterring doping has still not been created.”

The IAAF council accepted the following recommendations from its task force monitoring the verification process:

►That Russia’s track and field federation not be reinstated
► That the council pass a rule amendment allowing individual athletes who can “clearly and convincingly” show they have been subject to effective anti-doping systems and have not been tainted by the Russian system be able to apply to compete in international competitions as a neutral athlete

► That athletes who have made “an extraordinary contribution to the fight against doping” be able to apply for that exception, particularly that the case of whistleblower Yuliya Stepanova be viewed favorably

► That no RusAF officials, athletes or support personnel take part in international competition or IAAF affairs
In the news conference, Andersen said efforts to test athletes in Russia have “encountered serious obstacles.” Additionally, RusAF is unable to enforce all doping bans and the Russian Anti-Doping Agency is 18-24 months away from compliance with the WADA code.

“The statement that we’ve made today is a very clear indication that over the long haul, our responsibility is to protect clean athletes, and this is what this says,” IAAF President Sebastien Coe said. “In a system that has so badly failed the athletes in Russia, it is extremely difficult to define or have any presumption that athletes are in a safe and secure enough system for us to conclude that they are eligible for international competition.”

Already, the decision is set to face challenges. Pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, told Russian news agency TASS that she would file a discrimination case in the court for human rights.

In a statement, the Russian Ministry of Sport appealed to the International Olympic Committee, which is holding a summit Tuesday to discuss “the difficult decision between collective responsibility and individual justice.”

Andersen made clear that the exception for athletes would be narrow and was advised by legal counsel to head off legal challenges that could come to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

“The crack in the door, or the opening to apply for this is quite narrow,” Andersen said, “so there won’t be many athletes that will manage to get through the crack of that door because it’s clearly, they have to demonstrate that they have been subject to a credible anti-doping control system and that they are not tainted by the system in Russia.”





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