KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTS: Lord Sebastian Coe has insisted that world athletics will resist any pressure from the International Olympic Committee to soften its heart over the ban which will keep Russian track and field athletes out of the Rio Games in August.
The 23-member ruling council of the International Association of Athletics Federations, meeting in Vienna, offered the possibility of admission only to foreign-based Russian athletes who could prove themselves ‘clean.’
But as was observed by Rune Andersen, the Norwegian expert who led an IAAF task force monitoring Russia reluctance to end a culture of doping and cover-up, the option is a “very tiny crack in the door.”
Coe explained after the all-day council meeting that the Russian anti-doping body (RUSADA) remained suspended it was impossible consider that any of the country’s track and field athletes could take part in international competition.
Andersen said: “Although there has been significant progress, several important criteria have not been fully satisfied [including] a deep-seated culture of tolerance of doping that got the Russian athletics federation suspended in the first place.
“The head coach and many athletes appear unwilling to accept the extent of the doping problem in Russian athletics and some still appear ready to ignore the anti-doping rules.”
On top of that it would be between 18 months and two years before RUSADA would be ready to return to full compliance with the World Anti-Doping Code.
Coe, insisting that he would not be shifted from this firm line, said: “The decision sends a very powerful message that this is a non-negotiable proposition.
Over the long haul our responsibility is to protect clean athletes but in a system that has so badly failed athletics in Russia it is extremely difficult to decide that athletes are in a safe enough system for us to consider that they are eligible for international competition.”
Andersen endorsed that concern, saying: “Because the system in Russia has been tainted by doping from top level on down we cannot even trust that what we call clean athletes really are clean.”
Coe said he would attend next week’s ‘Olympic Summit’ organised by the IOC in Lausanne but would not consider any interference in the IAAF decision.
He said: “I will be attending the Olympic summit to represent my sport . . . but the decision the council took was unanimous. The eligibility criteria for any competing athletes is a matter for the IAAF – which the IOC would fully recognise since it is an organisation which represents the interest of individual federations.”
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