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Russian Olympic Committee To Take Lead On Reforms

IAAF President Sebastian Coe described the WADA report as a "shameful wake-up call."
IAAF President Sebastian Coe described the WADA report as a "shameful wake-up call."

The Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) says it will lead efforts to reform the country's athletics federation as the country faces possible exclusion from Olympic track and field over a doping scandal.

ROC President Aleksandr Zhukov said November 14 that the organization is "ready to take the initiative on reforming [the Russian athletics federation] in accordance with IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federation) requirements and anti-doping legislation."

He also said the ROC had reached agreement with the International Olympic Community to take measures to resolve problems with doping.

Russia's Sports Ministry announced on November 14 that elections for a new leadership at the Russian Athletics Federation would take place in the next three months.

Russia earlier called a decision by the world's governing body for track and field to suspend it from international athletics' competition "too harsh" but says it will cooperate with the ruling in hopes of being reinstated quickly.

The R-Sport news agency quotes Vadim Zelichenok, the acting head of the Russian Athletics Federation, as saying November 14 that "I believe, the IAAF council made a decision which was too severe, but it was made and now we will do everything to rectify the situation."

TASS news agency reported Zelichenok also said November 14 he was ready to resign to help the sport recover.

Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko told the R-Sport news agency that he believes Russia could be reinstated within three months.

"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," Mutko said.

Also on November 14, the International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach said he is confident that Russia will enact the necessary anti-doping reforms in time for its track and field athletes to be cleared to compete in next year's Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

"We are confident that the initiatives being proposed by the ROC...will ensure compliance as soon as possible in order to provide participation of the clean Russian athletes at the Olympic Games," Bach said in a statement.

The IAAF voted overwhelmingly November 13 to suspend Russia from athletics competitions because of widespread, state-sanctioned doping.

The decision will prevent Russian athletics teams from competing in the Olympics in Rio de Janiero next summer unless the country institutes major changes to control doping before then.

The IAAF council voted 22 to 1 for the suspension in an emergency teleconference, with three members abstaining.

"This has been a shameful wake-up call and we are clear that cheating at any level will not be tolerated," IAAF President Sebastian Coe said after the 3 1/2 hour meeting.

It's the first time the world track and field governing body has ever banned a country over its doping record.

"It is the strongest sanction that we could apply tonight," Coe said. "This is not about politics, this is about the protection of clean athletes. I cannot overstate the feeling around the conference call this evening about sending the strongest possible message that we can."

The suspension takes effect immediately, barring Russian athletes from all international track and field events until the country can prove it has put its house in order.

Coe said Russia will need to fulfill "a list of criteria" to win reinstatement.

An independent inspection team led by Norwegian anti-doping expert Rune Andersen will be appointed in the next few days to check on Russia's progress toward fixing its doping problem.

Coe said the verification team will hold Russia to a "tough" standard as it tries to get reinstatement in time to compete in the Rio Summer Olympics.

"We will get the change that we want and only then will Russian athletes be able to return to competition," Coe said.

Immediately after the decision on November 13, Mutko criticized it as "very strange," saying that the IAAF should have focused on its own legal problems.

Lamine Diack, Coe's predecessor as president of the association, is under investigation in France on charges of taking bribes to cover up positive drug cases in Russia.

The minister said he is hopeful Russia will be able to compete at the world indoor championships in Portland, Oregon, from March 17-20.

"We're ready for the world indoor championships if it works out in such a way that we make it," he said. "Anyway, the main thing is the Olympics."

Russia is a superpower in track and field, finishing second behind the United States in the medal count at the 2012 Olympics in London.

Under the terms of the IAAF suspension, Russian track and field athletes and their support personnel -- such as trainers and coaches -- are barred from international events, including World Athletics Series competitions and the Olympics.

Unless the Russian federation voluntarily accepts a full suspension, the IAAF will hold a hearing to elevate the provisional penalty to a full suspension.

The first competition to be affected by the ban is the European cross-country championships in France on December 13.

Russia will also be stripped of hosting the world race walking championships in Cheboksary from May 7-15, and the world junior championships in Kazan from July 19-24.

Russia has been the dominant force in world race walking competitions.

Russian athletes would be eligible to compete in their own national events during a ban, which only covers international competition.

The decision came just days after investigators from the World Anti-Doping Agency released a lengthy report that accused Russia's track and field federation of widespread and systematic doping involving athletes, coaches, trainers, and even the country's accredited testing laboratory.

Initially, Russian officials reacted defiantly to the doping report, saying it was politically motivated.

But days later, President Vladimir Putin hosted a meeting with top sporting officials and ordered an investigation.

In a report provided to the IAAF before the suspension, Russia admitted to some violations and said those found guilty of doping should be punished, but pleaded with the association to spare clean athletes who have not used drugs.

With reporting by AP and Reuters
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