30th January 2020

RusAF: AIU’s charges are ‘unfounded and unproven’

The Russian Athletics Federation (RusAF) announced it is exploring all legal avenues to ‘defend its innocence’ against the ‘unfounded and unproven’ charges put forward by the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) to the World Athletics Council, which resulted in yesterday’s recommendation that World Athletics consider RusAF’s expulsion. RusAF also attacked the AIU for ‘violations of procedural rights’, which it said included a ‘very short time’ to respond to charges that the AIU had spent months preparing.

The AIU began investigating whether RusAF officials had forged documentation in order to assist high jumper Danil Lysenko in defending a ‘whereabouts failure’ charge in June last year. It charged seven RusAF officials with tampering and complicity on 21 November last year including former RusAF President Dmitry Shlyakhtin (Дмитрий Шляхтин), who resigned two days later. 

RusAF was initially given a deadline of 12 December to respond to the charges, however this was extended until 2 January. The AIU said that RusAF filed a ‘Preliminary Response’ on 2 January, and a ‘Supplementary Response’ on 16 January. ‘RusAF had a total of eight weeks in which to response to the charges, having been granted three extensions of time by the AIU in that period’, read yesterday’s AIU statement.

RusAF said that the delay was the AIU’s fault. It said the AIU had ‘failed to provide a complete file of documents’, instead sending documents periodically, which had resulted in its delay in responding to the charges. The AIU said that RusAF had ‘gone to great lengths to deny any involvement in the matter, blame others and attack the process’. 

Article 84.1(a) is in the 2019 World Athletics Constitution, but didn’t feature in its 2017 Constitution…

In a statement, World Athletics said that under Article 84.1(b) of its 2019 Constitution (click here to download), the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) is mandated to arbitrate such disputes. However, it added that Article 84.1(a) of the Constitution allows it an option to take ‘reasonable steps’ before sending a dispute to the CAS. This second option don’t appear to exist in its 2017 Constitution (click here to download), which was in place when the AIU was formed in April 2017.

World Athletics said that Article 84.1(a), which has been in place since 1 January, will be utilised to write a letter to Yuliya Tarasenko (Юлия Тарасенко), RusAF’s Acting President, and Oleg Matytsin (Олег Матыцин), Russia’s new Minister of Sport. World Athletics said the letter would outline that if RusAF maintains its ‘blanket denials’ approach, it would ‘put all necessary resource into presenting the charges to the CAS’, and no applications for athletes to compete internationally as Authorised Neutral Athletes (ANAs) would be considered in the meantime. 

The 221st World Athletics Council meeting is scheduled for next month. The World Athletics statement said that if RusAF is prepared to admit the charges, it will consider sanctions against RusAF that will not include expulsion from World Athletics; it will implement a new process for ANAs to compete in international competitions; and will decide on a new process for the reinstatement of RusAF.

RusAF is scheduled to host new Presidential elections on 28 February. RusAF’s Athlete Commission alleged that the elections were delayed to avoid impacting the Russian Winter Indoor Championships, which take place from 25-27 February. One of the criticisms outlined by the AIU was that RusAF’s approach to its charges ‘seems to indicate that the current leadership of the Federation is merely a continuation of the former’. 

RusAF has shown no sign that it plans to bring its Presidential elections forward so that they take place prior to the World Athletics Council meeting. It today announced that seven candidates have expressed interest in becoming the new RusAF President, and their biographies would be published on its internet site on 13 February.

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