MONACO, November 13 – Russia could be cast into exile by world athletics chiefs who meet Friday determined to make a stand over “state-sponsored” doping with exclusion from the 2016 Olympics a potential long-term consequence for Moscow.
Sebastian Coe, the recently-elected president of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), will preside over a conference call of the body’s 26 members at around 1800GMT.
A simple majority is all that will be needed to confirm 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 attractions.
The 335-page report also blasted Russian officials for blackmailing athletes to cover up positive tests as well as destroying test samples.
Although Russian officials are expected to offer an olive branch by admitting to some cases of cheating, the IAAF is under huge pressure to take strong action less than a year out from the Rio Olympics.
Of the 26 members on the IAAF Council, nine are European.
“Europe will support Sebastian Coe. We have full confidence in him. We are all on the same page,” Svein Arne Hansen, the president of European Athletics, told Britain’s Daily Telegraph.
However, one leading IAAF council member, legendary Ukraine pole-vaulter Sergei Bubka who lost out to Coe in the race for the organisation’s top job, warned that it would be wrong to punish innocent athletes for the transgressions of others.
“All those involved, officials, managers or coaches, must pay the price,” Bubka told the AIPS world sports journalists association.
“But ordinary athletes, those who have nothing to do with this matter, should not have to miss a single competition.”
– ‘No Olympic boycott’ -The IAAF, he said, needed to live up to its responsibilities as an important player on the world sports stage but it must take it “case by case, person by person.”
On Thursday, Russia sent a formal reply to the allegations ahead of Friday’s meeting.
Acting president of Russia’s athletics federation Vadim Zelichenok said that it had produced the response “in such a way as to try to prove our innocence”.
“How many pages is it? One or 100, it’s not important,” he added.
In another development, Russia’s Olympic Committee president Alexander Zhukov flew into Lausanne in Switzerland Thursday evening for talks with International Olympic Committee chief Thomas Bach, R-Sport reported.
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 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.”
Should an Olympic ban be eventually imposed, Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko rejected the notion of a Russia boycott of Rio 2016.
In quotes published by British newspaper The Guardian, Mutko said that even if Russia’s athletes are suspended, “we don’t plan to boycott anything, anywhere”.
The crisis engulfing athletics comes hot on the heels of a massive corruption scandal at world football’s top body FIFA and as cycling is still recovering from the Lance Armstrong doping scandal.
Fears are growing that the scandal could widen to include other countries and other sports, as WADA suggested in its report.