IAAF bans Russia from athletics competitions over doping controversy

Russian athletes face the prospect of not competing in next year's Olympic Games in Rio. On Friday night the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) decided to ban the country from competitions following revelations of a culture of doping within the country. 

Sebastian Coe (left) beat Sergei  Sergei Bubka (right) in the vote to be president of the IAAF..
Sebastian Coe (left) beat Sergei Sergei Bubka (right) in the vote to be president of the IAAF.. Reuters/Juan Carlos Ulate - Montage/RFI

The IAAF provisionally suspended Russian athletes from track and field events on Friday night following allegations of "state-sponsored" doping.

IAAF chief, Sebastian Coe, said the ruling body had decided to crack down on the country as the Russian federation had failed to get a grip on the doping crisis. 

"This has been a shameful wake-up call,” said the English former Olympic champion. “And we are clear that cheating at any level will not be tolerated. Provisionally suspending them is the toughest sanction we can apply at this time to the All-Russia Athletic Federation,” Coe added. 

The Russian sports minister, Vitaly Mutko, said the ban was predictable. "I don't think they could have taken any other decision with the sword of Damocles that they had over their heads, with the pressure exerted on the commission," Mutko told the Russian TASS news agency.

Mikhail Butov, a Russian IAAF council member and ARAF secretary general, presented his country's position before 24 of the 27-strong IAAF council chaired by Coe.

The council decided 22 to 1 for Russia's suspension. The country's athletes and administrators were accused of widespread doping by a report from an independent commission set up by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

The commission head, Dick Pound, a former president of WADA, called for Russia to be suspended for 2016 "so that they can take the remedial work in time to make sure that Russian athletes can compete under a new framework".

 The IAAF's backing of that tough line means that athletes and athlete support personnel from Russia may not compete in international competitions including world athletic series competitions and the Olympic Games.

Russia will also miss out on the chance to host the 2016 World Race Walking Cup in Cheboksary and the 2016 World Junior Championships in Kazan.

In order to recover its position in the international fold, Russia will have to open itself to an inquiry team and allow an independent international anti-doping expert revamp its methods.

WADA welcomed the suspension. A spokesman added: "The decision is positive news for clean athletes worldwide.”

The 335-page WADA report, which was published on 9 November, hit out at Russian officials for blackmailing athletes to cover up positive tests as well as destroying test samples.

Lamine Diack, whom Coe succeeded as IAAF president in August, has also been charged with corruption by French investigators amid allegations he took bribes to cover up doping cases, principally in Russia. 

On Thursday, the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, ordered officials to launch their own internal investigation and cooperate with international anti-doping authorities. "We must do everything in Russia to rid ourselves of this problem," said Putin, an avid sportsman and judo black belt who led Russia's bid to host last year's Winter Olympics and the 2018 football World Cup.

He added: "This problem does not exist only in Russia, but if our foreign colleagues have questions, we must answer them."



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