Doping: Russian athletes remain banned from competition including Olympics

By Dan RoanBBC sports editor
IAAF doping
Russia were banned in November following accusations of state-sponsored doping

Russian track and field athletes remain banned from international competition, including the 2016 Olympics in Rio.

Athletics chiefs have decided not to lift the suspension, which was imposed in November following accusations of state-sponsored doping.

But individual athletes can compete as neutrals if they prove they are clean.

Meanwhile, Russian pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva said she would challenge the IAAF's decision in court, claiming it was "a human rights violation".

Isinbayeva, 34, who won Olympic gold in 2004 and 2008, added: "I'm disappointed and angry. I am offended. Nobody defended us.

"Nobody fought for our rights and there are huge concerns over the IAAF itself and its stance on defending the rights of clean athletes.

"We are blamed for something we have not done. I will not remain silent, I will take measures. I will appeal to the human rights court."

Russia anger over ban

Russian president Vladimir Putin described the ban as "unjust and unfair".

He said: "There are universally recognised principles of law and one of them is that the responsibility should be always personified.

"If some of the members of your family have committed a crime, would it be fair to hold all the members of the family liable, including you? That is not how it's done.

"The people who have nothing to do with violations, why should they suffer for those who committed the violations?"

In a statement, Russia's Ministry of Sport said it was "extremely disappointed" by the IAAF decision.

It continued: "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 have done everything possible since the ban was first imposed to regain the trust of the international community. We have rebuilt our anti-doping institutions which are being led by respected international experts.

"Our athletes are being tested by the UK's anti-doping agency (UKAD) and every one of them is undergoing a minimum of three tests in addition to the usual requirements. We have nothing to hide and feel we had met the IAAF's conditions for re-entry."

IAAF's Rune Andersen: "A hundred negative tests does not mean that an athlete is clean"

IAAF president Lord Coe said "no politics" were involved in the decision over Russia's ban. He emphasised the unanimous nature of the verdict and the international range of council members.

Coe also said he was "very happy" to return to the House of Commons culture, media and sport committee to give further evidence about doping and corruption in athletics, and when he was first made aware of allegations.

Reaction from the athletics world

The USA track and field team said it supported Russia's continued suspension "to ensure clean and fair competition for all athletes".

It added in a statement:external-link "It is the only proper course of action given the compelling and powerful evidence presented to council.

"We do not believe that every Russian athlete cheated, and it is unfortunate and regrettable that some may pay a penalty for the serious transgressions of their federation."

UK Athletics chairman Ed Warner said it was imperative "no cheats slip through the net". He added: "This will allow more time for the authorities to ensure that systems are in place to protect all clean athletes who are playing by the rules.

"As one of very few truly global sports, we look forward to a time that Russia can return to competition."

Former long distance runner Paula Radcliffe praised the IAAF for taking a "strong" and "important" decision.

"They showed that they are ready to step up and fulfil their vital role for clean athletes in ensuring that all is done to maintain a fair and level playing field," said Radcliffe.

"It is now up to the IOC and other governing bodies to act. I sympathise with any clean athlete who loses out in all this but Russia plainly did not do enough to comply and showed a blatant disregard for the rules of our sport."

Former 110m hurdles world champion Colin Jackson questioned the idea of athletes being allowed to compete as neutrals.

"I think it would be really weird. For me the essence of the Olympic Games is representing your country," he told BBC Radio Wales

IAAF taskforce report - what Russia needs to do

A summary of the taskforce report states Russia must show a culture of zero tolerance towards doping in athletics.

Although significant progress has been made to meet the IAAF's criteria, work still remains. In particular:

  • The deep-seated culture of tolerance for doping appears not to have changed. The head coach of the athletics team and athletes appear unwilling to acknowledge the extent of the doping problem.
  • A strong and effective anti-doping infrastructure capable of detecting and deterring doping has still not been created.
  • There are detailed allegations that the Ministry of Sport has orchestrated systematic doping and cover-ups.

However, the report does state that if individual athletes can convincingly show they are not tainted by the system, they will be allowed to compete in international competition, not for Russia but as a neutral athlete.

Lynsey Sharp
British 800m athlete Lynsey Sharp responded to a tweet from Russia's Ministry of Sport

The country was suspended by the IAAF after an independent Wada report depicted a culture of widespread doping, with even the secret services involved.

Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko has since said he is "very sorry" cheating athletes were not caught by the country's anti-doping systems, but stopped short of admitting the scandal had been state-sponsored.

A taskforce has been studying the Russian reforms but a fresh World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) report, issued on Wednesday, made more damaging claims.

Wada said officials in Russia were being stopped from testing athletes and threatened by security services.

International Olympic Committee (IOC) vice-president John Coates said Russia's athletes should remain banned and not be allowed to take part in the Rio Games this summer.

He also said Russia's anti-doping agency and athletics body were "rotten to the core".

IOC officials gather in Lausanne on Tuesday to discuss the matter, with some concerned a suspension will punish innocent athletes.

The IOC does have the power to overturn the IAAF's decision and allow the Russian athletics team to compete at the Olympics, which begin on 5 August.

"I would be very, very surprised if that happened," Coates said on Saturday. "It's an international federation's right to suspend a national federation and I don't think we would overturn that at all."


Steven Rosenberg, BBC Moscow correspondent

It was always going to be an uphill battle, especially after the World Anti-Doping Agency published its latest report on Wednesday, and unsurprisingly Moscow is unimpressed.

Two-time Olympic pole vault champion Isinbayeva may not be the only one to take legal action against the IAAF.

"I think many sportsmen will go to court," Dmitry Shlyakhtin, president of the Russian Athletics Association, told me.

Former biathlete Alexander Tikhonov called it "the most incompetent decision in the history of world sport".

Before the decision, President Vladimir Putin had made one final attempt to convince the world that Russia's isolation in athletics should end now. He said the Russian authorities were "categorically against" the use of banned substances in sport. He argued that doping "isn't just a Russian problem. It's a problem of the whole sporting world" and warned against "collective responsibility".

In other words, the Kremlin believes that "clean" athletes should not be punished just because other athletes are breaking the rules.

What reforms has Russia implemented?

According to Mutko, Russia has been reforming its anti-doping programme since it was banned in November.

He says it has:

  • Introduced independent testing
  • Introduced additional testing
  • Overhauled the Russian Anti-Doping Agency
  • Overhauled the Russian Athletics Federation
  • Introduced stricter rules for doping
  • Introduced lessons on anti-doping in schools

Mutko insists Russia "has done everything the IAAF" has asked it to do in order to be "reinstated to athletic competition" and has hinted his country could take legal action if its athletics federation is not reinstated.

Russia says it is being unfairly victimised, claiming other countries have fallen foul of the Wada code, such as Kenya and Ethiopia, but are free to compete.

Top Stories