KEIR RADNEDGE in LONDON —- Seb Coe controlled his words carefully in reporting that Russia had made minimal progress in addressing the doping crisis which ruled its track and field athletes out of last year’s Olympics – and threatens to keep them out of international competition for a long time to come.
Certainly, without an out-of-character volte-face, there is no prospect of a Russian team being admitted to the London World Championships later this summer.
“Disappointed” was the word Coe used at a media briefing after a council meeting in London of world athletics’ governing body, the International Association of Athletics Federations. He might also have used “frustrated” and “not surprised” or even stronger terms in reacting to an interim report from the taskforce led by Rune Andersen. July’s council meeting could be confronted by a need for “tough decisions.”
At its last council meeting in February the IAAF had set out six milestones or criteria which the Russia athletics federation, RusAF, should fulfil to gain even provisional reinstatement.
These included co-operation with the French criminal authorities, comprehensive national testing, sample sharing, governance changes, appropriate addressing of the damning World Anti-Doping Agency report from Professor Richard McLaren, endorsement of a ‘clean sport’ movement and satisfying WADA about the guaranteed independence of a rebuilt national anti-doping body.
Andersen’s report suggested that, with the smokescreen of some emollient words from Russian politicians up to and including President Vladimir Putin, little had been achieved.
A number of Russians have been granted exceptional eligibility to compete internationally as ‘neutral athletes’ but Coe indicated that this should not be taken as any weakening of the IAAF’s resolve.
Russian sources have suggested to this writer that political and sports leaders are playing the long game in a belief that the fatigue factor and pressure from within the Olympic movement will eventually persuade Lord Coe & Co to soften their line.
If so, they may have to wait a very long time since Coe has continued to make his own personal aversion to dope cheats, dating way back into his own track career, only too clear.
He said: “The taskforce was disappointed with the lack of progress since their last report, particularly in key areas around testing, the ability to get hold of biological passport samples, the ongoing issue around closed cities and ongoing employment of coaches from a tainted system still plying their trade.
“There is no reason why better progress has not been made and RusAF should be under no illusion: the criteria we laid down is the one which stands. This is what we are working to and will stick to.
“We will continue to be tough. There is no timeline. This criteria is not a mix ‘n’ match. It has to be met.”
Closed cities issue
He conceded some anti-doping testing had been recorded in Russia but that both the work and results were “far too limited.”
Coe added: “The Russians are still refusing to hand over athletes’ biological passports for independent testing by the labs; we’ve still got athletes in closed cities who are difficult if not impossible to get to; we’ve still got coaches plying their trade and the head coach of RusAF refusing to sign their own pledge to clean athletics.
“There is some way to go but we will see this through. This is non-negotiable.
“We’re not playing politics. The criteria were to deal with breaches to our anti-doping code and that has to be met. There is no timeline. It will be when that criteria is met and that is up to them [or] in a few months there will be tough decisions we have to make.
“The next steps are to try to maintain the progress that has been made – and there has been some progress – but there are some very, very big gaps that need to be bridged . . . I don’t think it’s that complicated.”