Russia in last-ditch plea to IAAF over 2016 Rio athletes ban

Coe, himself the target of allegations that he enlisted the help of the fugitive son of disgraced predecessor Lamine Diack to secure his election last year, is to give a press conference at the Grand Hotel Wien at 1500 GMT.

AFP| Updated: Jun 17, 2016, 20:15 PM IST
Russia in last-ditch plea to IAAF over 2016 Rio athletes ban

Vienna: Russia, racked by a doping and corruption scandal, made a last-ditch plea to IAAF president Sebastian Coe on Friday to lift its ban in time for athletes to compete at the Rio Olympics.

The IAAF Council, with 24 of the 27 members taking part, is meeting in Vienna to vote on whether to readmit Russia, first banned in November after a bombshell report by a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) independent commission that said there was state-sponsored doping and mass corruption in Russian athletics.

Coe, himself the target of allegations that he enlisted the help of the fugitive son of disgraced predecessor Lamine Diack to secure his election last year, is to give a press conference at the Grand Hotel Wien at 1500 GMT.

Speaking in St Petersburg just hours before that press conference, Russian President Vladimir Putin said: "There isn`t and cannot be any support on the government level of violations in sport, especially on the question of doping.

"There cannot be collective responsibility of all athletes," Putin said. "The whole team cannot bear responsibility for one who committed a violation" of anti-doping regulations.

Putin also warned against attempts to politicise the doping scandal and form an "anti-Russian position".

"Doping is not only a Russia problem, it`s a problem of the whole sports world," Putin said, adding that Russia was "categorically against" doping.

"And if someone tries to politicise something in this field, I think this is a big mistake."Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko had earlier penned an open letter to Coe and the Council, saying: "I would like to once again assure you that Russia fully supports fighting doping.

"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.

"Russia has done everything that the IAAF independent commission has rightly asked of us in order to be reinstated to athletic competition."

The IAAF extended the ban on the All-Russian Athletic Federation (ARAF) in March, with Coe stressing that it would only be lifted if there was clear evidence of a "verifiable change both in anti-doping practice and culture".

Despite Mutko`s proclamations on Friday that Russia was working hard in the fight against doping, WADA`s latest damning report, released on Wednesday, casts doubt over the likelihood of Russia`s immediate reinclusion.

WADA`s new report said hundreds of attempts to carry out drug tests on Russian athletes this year had been thwarted, with drug testers facing intimidation and threats from armed Russian security forces while athletes continued to evade doping control officers.

The WADA summary, which was compiled with the help of UK Anti-Doping, said more than 736 tests between February 15 and May 29 were declined or cancelled for a variety of reasons ranging from sample collection to athlete whereabouts.The International Olympic Committee (IOC) -- which organises the Olympics, although track and field is still sanctioned and run by the IAAF -- is to meet in Lausanne on June 21 on eligibility issues.

And it has been suggested that it could offer a face-saving option for all parties involved by opening up participation in Rio for certain doping-vetted Russian athletes.

"It`s a plausible option," French athletics federation president and IAAF Council member Bernard Amsalem told AFP.

Russian Olympic Committee head Alexander Zhukov said there were about 100 track and field athletes on Russia`s Olympic team and barring them from Rio would be a "blow to the Olympic movement".

"The Olympic Charter is based on the premise that everyone should participate," Zhukov said, expressing hope that the IAAF would make an "objective, balanced decision".

Russian athletes have criticised the blanket federation ban, saying clean competitors should not assume collective responsibility.

Ahead of Friday`s decision, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that "in the legal sphere, everything that is possible to defend the interests of our athletes and the Russian Olympic team is being done and will be done in the future".

But John Coates, president of the Australian Olympic Committee and an IOC vice president, said Russia`s anti-doping agency and athletics body had been "rotten to the core".