Accessibility links

Breaking News

Russia Said Likely To Remain Banned From Global Athletics Events

Yelena Isinbayeva, former champion pole vaulter and head of Russia's anti-doping agency
Yelena Isinbayeva, former champion pole vaulter and head of Russia's anti-doping agency

Russian athletes will not be able to return to global competitions unless there is significantly more progress cleaning up Russia's doping culture and introducing a satisfactory testing regime, the world athletics federation said on April 13.

Providing its latest update on Russia's state-sponsored doping system, the International Association of Athletics Federations in particular criticized Russia's decision to make Yelena Isinbayeva the head of its discredited anti-doping agency.

"It is difficult to see how this helps to achieve the desired change in culture in Russia track and field, or how it helps to promote an open environment for Russian whistleblowers," the federation's Russia task force chairman Rune Andersen said in the report.

Isinbayeva repeatedly criticized the World Anti-Doping Agency, said doping investigations were part of an anti-Russian plot, and called for a leading whistleblower to be banned for life from sports.

Isinbayeva, a two-time gold medalist and world-record holder in pole vaulting, missed the Rio de Janeiro Olympics because of a blanket ban on Russia's athletics team even though she was not personally implicated in any doping activity.

Federation president Sebastian Coe said that the blanket ban, which it first instituted in November 2015, is unlikely to be lifted anytime soon because Russia has not completed the reforms required to be reinstated.

"We were dealing with a pathology that was seismic," Coe said at a federation meeting in London on April 13. "We had over 130 positive tests and suspensions over five years. That’s not something we could turn a blind eye to."

"There has been some progress, but there are still some very big gaps and I'm disappointed," he said.

"There is no reason why better progress has not been made," he said. Russia's athletics federation "should be under no illusion at all that we will stick to this. The criteria are serious and will be followed through."

"There is [drug] testing, but it is still far too limited," Coe said. "The Russian investigative committee is still refusing to hand over athlete biological passport samples for independent testing from labs, we still have got athletes in closed cities that are difficult or impossible to get to, the ongoing employment of coaches from a tainted system, and we have got the head coach of RUSAF effectively refusing to sign their own pledge to clean athletics."

Coe said the Russian whistleblowers still are not safe, noting that Russian athlete Andrei Dmitriev recently had to flee the country after saying he was threatened with imprisonment for revealing that tainted coaches were still working in the Russian system.

"The situation surrounding Andrei Dmitriev, a champion of the clean sport movement in Russia, is alarming considering he has felt it necessary to take sanctuary abroad," Coe said.

Dmitry Shlyakhtin, head of the All-Russia Athletics Federation, told TASS that Russia is making progress toward eliminating the doping problem and he was "puzzled" by the federation's criticisms.

With prospects dim for reinstatement, the Russian athletics team likely will not be able to participate in this year's World Championships in London in August.

The federation is allowing some Russians to compete in international competitions as neutrals while their country remains banned. Twelve athletes so far have achieved neutral status by proving they were adequately tested for drugs over a lengthy period by non-Russian agencies.

Seven made the list on April 11, including world 110-meter hurdles champion Sergei Shubenkov and world high jump champion Maria Kuchina.

With reporting by AP, AFP, Reuters, and TASS

RFE/RL has been declared an "undesirable organization" by the Russian government.

If you are in Russia or the Russia-controlled parts of Ukraine and hold a Russian passport or are a stateless person residing permanently in Russia or the Russia-controlled parts of Ukraine, please note that you could face fines or imprisonment for sharing, liking, commenting on, or saving our content, or for contacting us.

To find out more, click here.