Russia faces ban from athletics amid doping allegations

IAAF gives Russia until end of week to respond to allegations of widespread corruption and collusion of drugs being used in sport with state support

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

(From L) Barrister & Solicitor Richard McLaren, former World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) President and chairman of the WADA independent commission Richard W Pound.

Russia could be banned from international athletics following allegations of widespread corruption and collusion and drugs being used in sport with state sponsorship, an anti-doping commission reported on Monday.    

The commission established by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) found a "deeply rooted culture of cheating" in Russian athletics, which it said Russian state security officials collaborated with, and also identified what it called systematic failures within the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).

A WADA-accredited anti-doping laboratory destroyed 1,417 samples prior to the commission’s inspection. "This was done on a Saturday morning immediately prior to the arrival in Moscow of a WADA audit team," the report said.

Russian Sport Minister, Vitaly Mutko, said there was no evidence for the allegations against the Russian Athletics Federation and that the sample drugs had been destroyed at WADA’s demand.

IAAF President Sebastian Coe said he was shocked and surprised by the range of reports, which come days after IAAF’s long-time chief, Lamine Diack, was accused by the IAAF of hiding a Russian athlete’s doping violations.

"These are dark days," Coe said. He gave Russia an ultimatum until the end of the week for Russia to respond to the allegations, and said the IAAF would then decide on the possible punishment.

IAAF president Coe said he had already "urged the IAAF Council to start the process of considering sanctions against ARAF [the Russian federation]."

"This step has not been taken lightly," he added.

Dick Pound, the head of the commission who published the report and a former president of WADA, pointed to a corruption scandal now disturbing soccer’s official body, FIFA.

"I think the credibility of sport has taken some fairly serious body blows in the last few months, with FIFA and its particular forms of corruption and now the IAAF, and these are two of the most important sports in the world," Pound said.

"I hope all sports will look at their governance and their anti-doping systems because their existence may be at risk," he told a news conference. "Public opinion is going to move towards the view that all sport is corrupt."

The presence of Russian security services in the Moscow anti-doping laboratory "actively imposed an atmosphere of intimidation on laboratory process and staff,” said the report.

Global Investigation to commence

The International Police body Interpol said it would conduct a global probe into corruption allegations and doping in athletics.

The published report revealed that the London Olympics in 2012 had in effect been "sabotaged" by the widespread inaction of national anti-doping officials and the sport’s monitoring body.

"For 2016, our recommendation is that the Russian Federation be suspended," Pound said. "In fact, one of our hopes is that they will volunteer that, so that they can take the remedial work in time to make sure that Russian athletes can compete under a new framework."

Russia came second following the United States in athletics at the 2012 Olympics, with its athletes winning 17 medals, eight of them gold, and has long been one of the leading countries in track and field sports.

"It's worse than we thought, It has the effect of factually affecting the results on the field of play and athletes, both in Russia and abroad, are suffering as a result," Pound said. "It may be a residue of the old Soviet system ... they must stop it and make a new start."

"I hope they'll say this is an opportunity to get rid of the old system, get rid of the old coaches, and change their ways. If they [Russia] do the surgery, and do the therapy, I hope they can get there [the Rio Olympics] and compete."

The published report suggested lifetime bans for five athletes, four coaches and one doctor, including the women’s 800 meters Olympic champion Mariya Savinova and bronze medallist Ekaterina Poistogova, all of whom are Russian.

A final decision to ban Russia could be taken only by the IAAF.

Last week, Lamine Diack, the former president of the IAAF, was placed under formal investigation by the French authorities over allegations of receiving over 1 million euros ($1.09 million) in 2011 to cover up positive doping tests by Russian athletes.  

TRTWorld and agencies