Demonising Justin Gatlin
13th September 2015
The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) has confirmed that the earliest possible date that the Russian Athletics Federation’s (RusAF) membership can be restored is November, meaning that Russia will not be able to compete at the August 2017 IAAF World Championships in London. Rune Andersen, Chairman of the IAAF Task Force formed to verify whether RusAF had met the reinstatement criteria it outlined, said that reinstatement required a fully-functional Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA).
“The roadmap that I outlined here, and to the Council earlier, clearly states that there will be no reinstatement until RUSADA Is functioning”, said Andersen at a press conference this evening. “There was one milestone in May, where they will start conducting testing and presumably, if everything goes according to plan, there will be a full reinstatement by November 2017, which means that RusAF is not recommended to be reinstated until that time”.
However, Russians will be able to take part if they are able to prove to the IAAF’s Doping Review Board (DRB) that they are “untainted” by the systemic Russian doping outlined in the two Independent Commission and two Independent Person reports produced for the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). The IAAF confirmed that it has received applications from 35 Russians to compete in international competitions as neutral athletes, provided they are able to meet the IAAF’s strict criteria.
RusAF published a list of 31 names last week, however the IAAF said Yuliya Stepanova and Darya Klishina have already been cleared to compete as neutral athletes. At the press conference this evening, the IAAF confirmed it was not too late for other Russians to join them at the European Indoor Championships, which take place from 3-5 March in Belgrade, providing they meet the IAAF criteria.
While Andersen appeared convinced that RusAF is committed to change, he said he was “not that certain” that Russia’s political leaders are in the same boat. He singled out Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko – who was promoted from Minister for Sport – for specific criticism in his Report to the IAAF Council (PDF below).
‘Deputy Prime Minister Mutko suggested that Russia has “scaled back its activities at restoring IAAF membership because the IAAF does not seem eager to restore the country’s membership”’, he wrote. He was also referred to Yelena Isinbayeva’s criticism of Russian whistleblower Andrey Dmitriev, who worked with ARD to film provisionally suspended Russian coaches training elite athletes in Russia. Isinbayeva, a two-time Olympic pole vault champion, was appointed as one of ten members of a RUSADA supervisory board in December.
In contrast, Andersen said that RusAF President Dimitri Shlyakhtin “continues to impress the IAAF Task Force with his hard work and professionalism”. The Taskforce has given RusAF a further chance to prove its commitment to change by recommending that it give an assessment on each Russian that has applied to compete internationally as a neutral athlete.
Andersen also praised Colonel Zherdev, a representative of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation for cooperating with French authorities in investigating the conspiracy between IAAF and RusAF officials to cover up positive doping tests. He said that Zherdev is investigating the allegations in the two Independent Person Reports produced for WADA by Richard McLaren, including the conspiracy of officials from the Ministry of Sport, the Centre for Sports Preparation linked to the Ministry of Sport and Russia’s federal security service, the FSB.
Despite these positive points, the nuts and bolts of Andersen’s Report appear to indicate that little progress has been made. Incredibly, it appears that attempts are still being made to interfere with sample bottles leaving Russia; athletes are withdrawing from events when Doping Control Officers (DCOs) show up; testing is limited; Russian authorities are still refusing to release athlete biological passport (ABP) samples that have been screened at the Moscow laboratory; and events are still taking place in ‘closed cities’ where DCOs cannot gain access to test athletes without a special permit.
‘On 25 January 2017, it was reported that five athletes had withdrawn from a national competition when they heard that DCOs had turned up’, reads the Report. ‘In at least one case, boxes of samples being shipped to foreign labs for testing were opened and inspected, and (it appears) attempts were made to open a sample bottle’.
However, it appears that Russian athletes are beginning to accept the situation. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) confirmed that the 18 Russian medal winners that have returned an anti-doping rule violation (ADRV) due to the IOC’s retests of samples given at the Beijing 2008 and London 2012 Olympic Games have begun to return their medals. “We have already received back a number of medals and are in contact with Russian Olympic Committee”, said an IOC spokesperson.
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