Sports

Russia suspended over accusations of 'state sponsored' doping

IAAF votes 22-1 to penalise athletics powerhouse over accusations of 'state sponsored' doping

Athletics giants Russia were provisionally suspended from track and field on Friday over accusations of "state-sponsored" doping as the IAAF scrambled to salvage the sport's credibility just nine months away from the Rio Olympics.

"Today, we have been dealing with the failure of ARAF (All-Russia Athletic Federation) and made the decision to provisionally suspend them, the toughest sanction we can apply at this time," IAAF president Sebastian Coe said.

"But we discussed and agreed that the whole system has failed the athletes, not just in Russia, but also around the world.

"This has been a shameful wake-up call and we are clear that cheating at any level will not be tolerated."

Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said yesterday that the ban was predictable but it will be resolved in two to three months.

"I don't think they could have taken any other decision with the sword of Damocles that they had over their heads, with the pressure exerted on the commission," Mutko told the Russian TASS news agency.

"We need to understand what they want and where they see threats.

"We will develop a joint road map and try do it quickly. I think we can do all the work in two to three months."

Russian Mikhail Butov, an IAAF council member and ARAF secretary general, presented his country's position before 24 of the 27-strong IAAF council chaired by Coe.

But the council returned a vote of 22 for and one against, the simple majority confirming a suspension for Russia, who were accused of widespread doping by an independent commission set up by the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) in a report which has shaken track and field, one of the Olympic Games' flagship sports.

In that report, commission head Dick Pound, a former president of Wada, called for Russia to be suspended for 2016 "so that they can take the remedial work in time to make sure that Russian athletes can compete under a new framework".

The IAAF took his words to heart, saying the consequences of the provisional suspension were that "athletes and athlete support personnel from Russia may not compete in international competitions including World Athletic Series competitions and the Olympic Games".

It also means Russia "will not be entitled to host the 2016 World Race Walking Cup (Cheboksary) and 2016 World Junior Championships (Kazan)".

The IAAF added: "To regain membership to the IAAF, the new federation would have to fulfil a list of criteria.

"An inspection team led by Independent Chair Rune Andersen, an independent international anti-doping expert (Norwegian), and three members of the IAAF council, who will be appointed in the next few days."

Wada welcomed the suspension, according to spokesman Ben Nichols.

"The decision is positive news for clean athletes worldwide," Nichols said.

The 335-page Wada report blasted Russian officials for blackmailing athletes to cover up positive tests as well as destroying test samples.

Lamine Diack, whom Coe succeeded as IAAF president in August, has also been charged with corruption by French investigators amid allegations he took bribes to cover up doping cases, principally in Russia.

The fallout from the Wada report's damning conclusions reached as far up as Russian President Vladimir Putin, who ordered officials to launch their own internal investigation and cooperate with international anti-doping authorities.

"We must do everything in Russia to rid ourselves of this problem," said Putin, an avid sportsman and a judo black belt who led Russia's bid to host last year's Winter Olympics and the 2018 football World Cup.

However, he added: "This problem does not exist only in Russia but, if our foreign colleagues have questions, we must answer them."

Calls by Russia's star pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva and Ukraine's former pole vault legend Sergei Bubka, the IAAF vice-president, not to enforce collective punishment against all Russian athletes also fell on deaf ears.

"The situation around the Russian athletics team is very sad. But I'd like to issue a pressing request: don't reduce all our athletes to the same level," said Isinbayeva, who has set 28 world records in women's pole vault during her career.

"It's unfair to deprive innocent athletes, who are not party to this case, the right to compete at the Olympics Games at Rio de Janeiro."

The 33-year-old Russian had announced her retirement after winning the 2013 IAAF world championships in Moscow to give birth to her daughter.

But the three-time Olympic medallist recently hinted that she would come out of retirement if she had a chance at winning gold in Rio. - Wire Services.

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