Russia’s track and field federation was suspended from international competition on Friday, leaving it in danger of missing next year’s Olympics in Brazil unless the country cleans up its act on doping.
The provisional suspension was approved by a 22-1 vote during a teleconference of the ruling council of the International Association of Athletics Federation. It’s the first time the IAAF has ever banned a country over its doping record.
IAAF President Sebastian Coe convened the meeting after Russia was accused of widespread, systematic cheating in a report released Monday by a World Anti-Doping Agency commission.
“This has been a shameful wake-up call and we are clear that cheating at any level will not be tolerated,” Coe said after a meeting that lasted nearly 3 1/2 hours.
Coe was under heavy pressure to take tough action, despite efforts by Russian officials to avoid a blanket ban by agreeing to cooperate and make reforms in their anti-doping system.
“It is the strongest sanction that we could apply tonight,” he said. “It is why our council has sent such a strong message.”
The suspension takes effect immediately, barring Russian athletes from all international track and field events until the country can prove it has put its house in order.
Coe said Russia will need to fulfill “a list of criteria” to win reinstatement. An independent inspection team led by Norwegian anti-doping expert Rune Andersen will be appointed in the next few days to check on Russia’s progress toward fixing its doping problem.
Coe was asked whether the Russian federation would be able to reform in time for its athletes to compete at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, which run from Aug. 5-21.
“It is entirely up to the Russian federation and Russia to enact those changes,” Coe said. “Our verification team will be tough. … It is for the IAAF and no other organization to make that judgment. We will get the change that we want and only then will Russian athletes be able to return to competition.”
Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko criticized the decision as “very strange,” saying that the IAAF should have focused on its own legal problems. Former IAAF President Lamine Diack is under investigation in France on charges of taking bribes to cover up positive drug cases in Russia.
“Our reaction is calm,” Mutko told The Associated Press. “We didn’t expect anything else.”
The minister said he is hopeful Russia will be able to compete at the world indoor championships in Portland, Oregon, from March 17-20.
“We’re ready for the world indoor championships if it works out in such a way that we make it,” he said. “Anyway, the main thing is the Olympics.”
Mutko said earlier Friday he was “completely sure” that Russia will be able to compete at the Olympics.
“We may miss one or two competitions, but for athletes with clean consciences to miss the Olympics or a world championships would be real stupidity,” he said.
Ban on international competition only
Under the terms of the IAAF suspension, Russian track and field athletes and their support personnel — such as trainers and coaches — are barred from international events, including World Athletics Series competitions and the Olympics.
Unless the Russian federation voluntarily accepts a full suspension, the IAAF will hold a hearing to elevate the provisional penalty to a full suspension.
Russia will also be stripped of hosting the world race walking championships in Cheboksary from May 7-15, and the world junior championships in Kazan from July 19-24. Russia has been the dominant force in world race walking.
Russian athletes would be eligible to compete in their own national events during a ban, which only covers international competition.