News 13th November 2015

IAAF votes to provisionally suspend Russia

The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) voted to provisionally suspend Russia as an IAAF member following a three hour meeting held via teleconference from London today. Twenty-four IAAF Council members took part in the meeting; 22 voting to suspend Russia with one vote against – the Council member from Russia, Mikhail Butov, was not eligible to vote. The Russian Athletics Federation (ARAF) was suspended for breaching the Objects of the IAAF Constitution, which include: ‘developing and maintaining programmes aimed at eradicating doping from the sport and safeguarding the authenticity and integrity of Athletics’.

What’s next?

As the IAAF has only provisionally suspended ARAF, it will have an opportunity to be heard at a hearing, which under Article 14.10 of the IAAF Constitution, must take place within 60 days. It is unlikely to accept a full suspension, as that would be seen as admission that all the findings of the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) Independent Commission report were correct. If the IAAF does proceed to a full suspension at that hearing, then Russia would need to form a new federation and fulfil a full list of criteria. To this end, the IAAF has already appointed Norwegian anti-doping expert Rune Andersen, and three members of the IAAF Council will be appointed to assist him.

ARAF has already indicated that it is unlikely to accept a suspension on the grounds that it is unfair to Russia’s clean athletes. In a statement posted on its internet site today, Ukrainian pole vaulter Sergey Bubka – who represented the Soviet Union until its 1991 dissolution – said that “clean” athletes should not be denied the right to perform in major competitions. A similar open letter from pole vault world record holder Yelena Isinbaeva pleaded: ‘I ask you not to treat all the athletes in the same negative way. To ban innocent and not connected to that doping scandal athletes from competing in international events and Olympic Games in Rio is not fair.’

Hosting issues…

Today’s IAAF statement mentions that one of the costs of the provisional suspension is that Russia will not be able to host the World Race Walking Team Championships in Cheboksary, 7-8 May 2016 and the World Junior Championships in Kazan, scheduled for 19-24 July 2016. New hosts will have to found for these events. However, the IAAF makes no mention of its World Indoor meeting, which is scheduled to be held in Moscow on 14 February 2016.

The provisional suspension will not affect national events held in Russia, which is hopeful that it will be able to compete at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. “The chance to perform at the [2016] Olympic Games is still there”, Russian Minister for Sport Vitaly Mutko told Russian state news agency TASS over the phone. “The suspension is temporary and we need to implement a number of demands in the next few months.”

WADA, RUSADA & Rio…

On Monday 9 November, the WADA Independent Commission recommended that Russia be suspended from the Rio Olympics. “For 2016 [Rio Olympics], our recommendation is that the Russian Federation be suspended”, said its President, Dick Pound. However, in a television interview, IAAF President Sebastian Coe appeared to defend Russia’s right to compete in Rio. “It is entirely up to the Russian federation and the speed with which we can enact change”, he said. “Our verification team will be tough. We will want to make sure before there is a reintroduction to the sport for their athletes and their federation that those changes have taken place and not before. It is for the IAAF and no other organisation to make that judgement.”

It is understood that a WADA panel has recommended that the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) also be suspended. However, a WADA statement issued today confirmed that a final decision will be taken by the Foundation Board at its 18 November meeting in Colorado Springs.

IAAF reforms…

Coe also told the IAAF Council that he has appointed Paul Deighton, former CEO of the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (LOCOG) and a UK government Minister to oversee an IAAF reform programme, which will be carried out by accountants Deloitte. The IAAF statement said that ‘forensic accountants’ from Deloitte and lawyers from Freshfields began work at the IAAF headquarters yesterday. The Council were told that Coe will create an independent integrity board for athletics.

Further questions…

On 2 December, the UK Parliament’s Culture, Media & Sport (CMS) Select Committee will question Coe as part of its ongoing inquiry into blood doping in athletics. A IAAF Ethics Committee hearing will also take place from 16-18 December in London, where charges against four people will be heard.

They are Papa Massata Diack, son of former IAAF President Lamine Diack; Valentin Balakhnichev, who resigned as President of ARAF in February and voluntarily stepped down as IAAF Treasurer while the IAAF Ethics Commission conducted its investigation; Russian endurance coach Alexei Melnikov, whom the WADA Independent Commission recommended be banned for life; and Gabriel Dollé, former Director of the IAAF’s Medical & Anti-Doping Department. An Ethics Commission investigation is also ongoing in respect of an additional person. Lamine Diack and his Legal Advisor Habib Cissé, his son Papa Massata Diack and Dollé are all understood to be under investigation by Interpol, following the arrest of Diack and Dollé by French police earlier this month.

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