Russian athletics federation remains suspended from IAAF membership but Russians could still compete at the Rio Olympics as “neutral” athletes

The suspension of the Russian Athletics Federation (RusAF) as an International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Member has been upheld following an IAAF Council meeting in Vienna on Friday (June 17).

This means that athletes remain banned from competing for Russia in international events, however, following a rule amendment, Russians may still be able to compete at the Rio Olympic Games and other international competitions as “neutral” athletes.

“Although good progress has been made, the IAAF Council was unanimous that RusAF had not met the reinstatement conditions and that Russian athletes could not credibly return to international competition without undermining the confidence of their competitors and the public. As a result, RusAF has not been reinstated to membership of the IAAF at this stage,” said IAAF president Sebastian Coe, pictured above with IAAF senior vice president Sergey Bubka and IAAF general secretary Jean Gracia.

“This was not an easy decision or lightly taken,” added Coe, who chaired the meeting of 25 members of the 27-strong IAAF Council.

“With the assistance of the taskforce we will continue to work with RusAF on the reinstatement of Russian athletes as soon as possible.”

The suspension of the RusAF as an IAAF Member has been in place since last November and it came after a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Independent Commission report detailed findings including a “deeply rooted culture of cheating” in Russian athletics.

On Friday the IAAF Council met in Vienna where an IAAF taskforce, which had been working to verify the reforms programme in Russia, delivered a report which made four separate unanimous recommendations.

The taskforce, which includes independent chairperson Rune Andersen, recommended that RusAF should not be reinstated to IAAF membership at this stage as it has failed to meet important verification criteria. “The deep-seated culture of tolerance (or worse) for doping that led to RusAF being suspended in the first place appears not to have changed materially to date,” read an IAAF statement in part.

However, a further recommendation detailed a rule amendment to the effect that “if there are any individual athletes who can clearly and convincingly show that they are not tainted by the Russian system because they have been outside the country, and subject to other, effective anti-doping systems, including effective drug-testing, then they should be able to apply for permission to compete in international competitions, not for Russia but as a neutral athlete.”

In addition, the IAAF stated that any individual athlete who is considered to have made an “extraordinary contribution” to the fight against doping in sport should also be able to apply for such permission.

The case of Russian whistleblower Yuliya Stepanova “should be considered favourably”, added the IAAF.

“For Russian athletes to be reinstated into international competition, RusAF must show that there is now a culture of zero tolerance towards doping in Russian athletics and that RusAF, RUSADA (Russian Anti-Doping Agency), and the public authorities in Russia, working in cooperation, have created an anti-doping infrastructure that is effective in detecting and deterring cheats, and therefore provides reasonable assurance and protection to clean athletes both inside and outside of Russia,” said Andersen.

The IAAF Council meeting came two days after the publication of a WADA update report regarding Russian testing which detailed findings including athlete evasion, tampering and restricted access.

The full IAAF taskforce interim report can be downloaded here.

In a statement, the Russian Ministry of Sport said it is “extremely disappointed” by the IAAF’s decision to uphold the ban on its track and field athletes.

The statement added in part: “Clean athletes’ dreams are being destroyed because of the reprehensible behaviour of other athletes and officials.

“They have sacrificed years of their lives striving to compete at the Olympics and now that sacrifice looks likely to be wasted.

“We now appeal to the members of the International Olympic Committee to not only consider the impact that our athletes’ exclusion will have on their dreams and the people of Russia, but also that the Olympics themselves will be diminished by their absence.”

Russia’s two-time Olympic pole vault gold medallist Yelena Isinbayeva was quoted by the BBC as saying that she will “appeal to the human rights court”.

In a statement released following the IAAF Council meeting, European Athletics president and IAAF Council member Svein Arne Hansen said he “fully supports the result”.

“It would be unfair not to acknowledge the efforts of the RusAF, and other sports organisations in Russia, to make improvements in their anti-doping practices and procedures but the taskforce left no doubt that more needs to be done before athletes and the public around the world can have 100% confidence that all competitors from Russia are subject to and comply with the internationally accepted standards of doping control,” he said.

“It would also be unfair to allow the impression that doping is a problem confined to Russia or to athletics.”

Meanwhile, following a BBC Panorama programme on Thursday (June 16), to which the IAAF responded with a statement found here, Coe was questioned in the post-IAAF Council meeting press conference about his communication with London Marathon elite race coordinator Dave Bedford and also claims that he received advice from former IAAF marketing consultant Papa Massata Diack ahead of the IAAF presidential election last August.

On his communication with Bedford, Coe said: “Dave Bedford did speak to me, I think from memory at the time of the European Championships or around that time in Zurich. He talked about rumours and allegations but no details and then forwarded me the email which I then forwarded to Michael Beloff at the Ethics Committee.”

He added: “There is an ethics board and my standard response has always been, forward whatever you know and whatever conversation you want to relay to the ethics board. That is exactly what it is there for.”

On any advice received in the run-up to the IAAF presidential election, Coe said: “It is the very nature of a campaign that advice is given whether it is sought or not. Some of it is useful, some of it less so. I had a campaign team who worked very closely with me on this campaign and you treat information warily and civilly. Information and advice is not always accepted and is certainly not always sought.”

Coe also said that he would be “very happy” to return to the House of Commons’ Culture, Media and Sport select committee to talk about the progress that the IAAF has made in the reform agenda at the IAAF, the changes the international governing body is making to its anti-doping programmes and the work it has agreed around the appointment of an ethical compliance officer and an ethical compliance unit.