IAAF keeps firm stance on Russia


IAAF keeps firm stance on Russia

Von Nick Butler and Hajo Seppelt

Athletics’ world governing body was at the centre of the Russian doping scandal when it erupted in 2014 and was badly hit by allegations of corruption. But, unlike many other sports organisations, they have since stood firm and maintained their Russian suspension. Nick Butler and Hajo Seppelt explore why.

Yesterday’s meeting in Monte Carlo was the ninth time the International Association of Athletics Federation’s council has discussed Russian reinstatement and the ninth time they have maintained the ban. To return, Russia must still pay an outstanding fine of at least $2.7 million to cover the costs of the investigation. More importantly, they must also deliver complete data from the Moscow laboratory on cases involving 1,000 Russian athletes.

This decision was ratified by the council, led by IAAF’s president and Olympics medallist Sebastian Coe, after a recommendation by a Task Force chaired by Norway’s Rune Andersen. But, in a sports world where "independent" panels are usually anything but, the President’s apparent non-interference in the Task Force work deserves praise.

WADA controversially lifted their suspension of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency in September without Russia having accepted allegations of state sponsored doping or provided laboratory data. They insist the ban will be reimposed if the data is not provided by a December 31 deadline, but this remains to be seen.

The decision, which followed the International Olympic Committee lifting their brief Russian suspension in February, ushered in the return of Putin’s regime from the sporting wilderness. The country has since been awarded World Championships in men’s volleyball and women’s boxing as well as the 2020 European Championships in weightlifting. Russian steel tycoon Vladimir Lisin has been elected President of the world shooting governing body and Stansislav Pozdnyakov has reportedly been quietly appointed to the Executive Council of the Association of National Olympic Committees.

The IAAF, along with the International Paralympic Committee and the International Biathlon Union, are the only sports bodies still wielding any sort of sanction. 

Differences of opinion with WADA

In many ways, the IAAF are in an easier position than WADA were because they are not facing the same external pressure from the IOC. But Andersen implied he has a difference in opinion as well as circumstances. The Task Force report published following the meeting said that they "remain disappointed" that Russia has not recognised all the findings of the McLaren Report about state sponsored doping. They will "continue to monitor the steps that Russia takes to address these findings" despite WADA’s shift.

Andersen was also restrained when asked of his confidence that accurate laboratory data will be provided by the Russians. "I hope they will deliver the data", he said. "I cannot go any further than that. Sorry." WADA President Craig Reedie, in contrast, claims to be "100 per cent confident" accurate data will be found.

This begs the question of what the IAAF will do if complete data is not provided. Coe here reverted to sounding like a politician. "I don’t want to get into a hypothetical situation," he said. 

Reading between the lines, it sounds like he hopes the suspension can be lifted soon. But neither Andersen nor Coe is showing any willingness to back down. 

There are so many other valid doping scandals in athletics involving other nations - as in other sports. But the saga remains key in illustrating how the fabric of anti-doping and sports administration withstands a blatant scandal involving one of the most powerful players.

And the IAAF and its once under-fire President, unlike most others, are currently standing firm.

Thema in: Sport aktuell, Deutschlandfunk, wednesday, 05.12.18, from 22.50 Uhr

Stand: 04.12.2018, 14:16