RIO DE JANEIRO: World athletics head Lord Sebastian Coe has accused Russia of “letting down” its athletes over the doping scandal which overshadowed the run-up to the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.

The president of the International Association of Athletics Federation said Russia had led a “cataclysmic failure to oversee and protect” its athletes from widespread doping.

Speaking at a press conference, Lord Coe was responding to questions whether the IAAF had made it too difficult for Russian athletes to prove they had clean anti-doping records.

Previously, the IAAF announced a blanket ban for the Russian athletics federation from competing at international competitions, but left the door open for individual athletes to prove their innocence.

Co said: “Let’s be really clear about this. I am afraid, Russia has let down their athletes. We have not banned athletes. This was a cataclysmic failure to oversee and protect those athletes.”

The IAAF’s focus was now for the reinstatement of the Russia federation to international competitions but that this could only happen once a “level playing field” had been established.

Coe said: “We started a process from November 9, 2015, after the independent WADA investigation. By the 13th we provisionally suspended the Russian Federation. We followed up the process and procedures, we created a criteria for reinstatement.

“Let me be clear: our focus now has to be the reinstatement of the Russian Athletics Federation. None of us in the IAAf Council took the decision [of suspending RUSAF] lightly. It has been upheld by the Court of Arbitration and has been accepted and respected by the IOC. But none of us came to the sport to prevent athletes to competing.”

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