KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko has lanched a last-ditch appeal to members of world athletics’ governing body not to firm up the provisional suspension which would place Russia in direct line of being barred from track and field at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in August.

The 23-member council of the International Association of Athletics Federations is meeting today in Vienna agonising over a decision which matches the fractured integrity of the sport on the one hand against the brazen dope-cheating strategy within Russian sport over many years.

Special pleading . . . Russian Sports Minister Mutko

A devastating German television documentary laying bare a policy of endemic doping and cover-up was followed by a devastating report to the World Anti-Doping Agency and the initial provisional suspension last November for six months of Russian athletes.

WADA placed before today’s IAAF Council meeting an updated report telling how Russian athletes and officials had continued to obstruct the work of its doping control officers.

Open letter

The tenor of that report runs totally counter to the claims of Mutko in an open letter sent to IAAF president Lord Sebastian Coe and his council before today’s meeting.

According to Mutko, Russia has learned its lesson, reformed and restructured and is ready to be a clean and worthy participant in track and field in Rio. Mutko did not refer to comments he made earlier this week suggesting that an extended ban might prompt legal action.

Olympic champion pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva has already stated a will to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport is a blanket ban were to be imposed on Russian athletes.

In his open letter, Mutko said that “Russia fully supports fighting doping.”

However, in an appeal to fair play – which may be received better by the International Olympic Committee itself than by the IAAF – Mukto insisted that “clean athletes should not be punished for the actions of others.”

He added: “Russia is doing everything possible to ensure our athletes are a part of clean and fair Olympic Games. In light of our efforts, I urge you to reconsider the ban on our athletes.”

Mutko set out how, working jointly with WADA and IAAF inspection team, Russia had been reforming its anti-doping programme through:

1, Independent testing through “an agreement with Britain’s anti-doping agency, UKAD, which is responsible for planning the entire Russian testing program until our national anti-doping program is reaccredited; samples are taken from athletes by non-Russian experts and analyzed in WADA-accredited labs outside Russia”;

2, Additional Testing – “Russia’s athletes will undergo a minimum of three additional anti-doping controls carried out by the IAAF before the Rio Games . . . over and above all the normal anti-doping tests that athletes receive in qualifying competitions”;

Structural changes

Both the Russian anti-doping and athletics federations had been overhauled in terms of structure and leadership and a new law had been put before the Duma, making it a criminal offense for an athlete’s coach and entourage to support doping.

Mutko, repeating his plea on behalf of his athletes, said: “Clean athletes who have dedicated years of their lives to training and who never sought to gain unfair advantage through doping should not be punished for the past actions of other individuals.

“Additionally, Russia’s athletes must not be singled out as the only ones to be punished for a problem that is widely acknowledged to go far beyond our country’s borders.

“Russia has done everything that IAAF independent commission has rightly asked of us in order to be reinstated to athletic competition. I hope that after witnessing us institute the changes you demanded, I have given you the reassurance that we should be readmitted.”