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Olympic chiefs defend tough stance on Russian doping

Russia was accused in a World Anti-Doping Agency report of widespread state-sponsored doping © AFP/File / FRANCK FIFE

LONDON, United Kingdom, Aug 4 – The International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Friday defended its stance on Russia despite being criticised for baulking at calls to ban the country outright from last year’s Rio Olympics over doping.

Russia was accused in a World Anti-Doping Agency report last year of widespread state-sponsored doping. Its athletics team was barred by the IAAF from the Rio Games and will also miss the IAAF World Championships that get under way later Friday.

But there was no blanket ban for Russia in Rio, the IOC coming under fire for instead allowing individual sports federations to decide which Russian athletes could compete.

IOC president Thomas Bach insisted that the IAAF was a special case, outlining the “collusive cooperation” Russian elements had enjoyed with the disgraced former IAAF president Lamine Diack and other corrupt people at the heart of track and field.

International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach © AFP/File / Fabrice COFFRINI

Russia “was discussed, it was raised”, Bach told a press conference in London alongside current IAAF president Sebastian Coe, who initiated the ban on Russia and resultant reforms within global track and field’s governing body.

“It was very clear that, as we have always said, different issues need different approaches,” the German said.

“The IAAF is in fact the only international federation, international sports organisation, which is, due to facts relating to the former leadership of the IAAF, implicated in the report of Professor McLaren as is the national federation of athletics of Russia,” he said in reference to the Canadian co-author of the bombshell report into the state-sponsored doping.

“This is the difference to all other international federations.

“Professor McLaren made it always very clear that there is no other, neither national federation nor international federation, about which he would have similar information of such a collusive cooperation with regard to the fight against doping.

Dmitry Shlyakhtin, head of the Russian athletics federation © AFP/File / Alexander NEMENOV

“In this respect, the IAAF was in a special situation and addressed it then with special measures.”

Bach added: “It was a courageous decision at the time and it is a courageous decision to follow it through.

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“The IOC accepted and supported these measures from the very beginning.”

– Acknowledge the turbulence –

IAAF head Coe said he had informed Bach of Russia’s “important step” Thursday when Dmitry Shlyakhtin, head of the Russian athletics federation (RusAF), publicly apologised for the doping scandal.

“I expressed my comfort that the new head of RusAF was prepared to acknowledge the turbulence that they had had to deal with it and the way in which they were gripping that return,” the Briton said.

IAAF president Sebastian Coe © AFP/File / VALERY HACHE

“An international federation can only respond to the circumstances that it confronts. You can’t benchmark your responses against what other federations may be doing because you’re not comparing like for like.

“This was the roadmap we thought was the best roadmap for normalising the situation,” he said of the Rune Andersen-headed Taskforce set up by IAAF to oversee the return of Russia to international competition.

“There are still some milemarks to meet but we are making progress.

“The object is to make sure that when those (Russian) athletes do return to international competition… under normal circumstances, representative of their nation, then they do so in a way that’s not remotely jeopardising the ambitions of clean athletes wherever they happen to be.”

A number of Russian athletes, however, have been granted permission by the IAAF to compete as neutrals after meeting the exceptional eligibility criteria, essentially demonstrating that they’ve come through transparent anti-doping testing.

Coe has confirmed that 19 Russian athletes were in London to compete at the worlds.

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But the country remains excluded as a whole after the Congress of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) voted in favour of the Council’s decision to maintain the ban on RusAF.

Taskforce chief Andersen insists that the timeline of a Russian return to international action in November was still possible.

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