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Russia in spotlight as IAAF wrestles with Semenya case

Authorised Neutral Athlete Russia’s Yelena Sokolova competes in the Women’s Long Jump during the IAAF Diamond League competition on June 6 © AFP / Andreas SOLARO

MONACO, Monaco, Jun 8Doping-tainted Russia will learn on Sunday whether it has met the criteria set by athletics’ governing body the IAAF to be reintegrated in world track and field.

Banned in November 2015 because of evidence of mass state-sponsored doping, Russia has failed to have its ban overturned 10 times.

Dozens of Russian athletes cleared by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), however, have competed as neutrals.

While US-based long jumper Darya Klishina was the sole Russian athlete cleared to participate at the 2016 Rio Olympics, 74 Russian athletes competed as neutrals last year and 68 have been cleared since the start of 2019.

The IAAF, led by two-time Olympic 1500m gold medallist Sebastian Coe, has been the stand-out sporting body to put its foot down in the wake of the doping scandal, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) having both reintegrated Russia.

Rumour has it that Russia, a giant in the track and field world, is now closer than ever to getting the green light from the IAAF for its reintegration.

The body’s Task Force, charged with investigating the scandal, wants 2.8 millions euros repaid by the Russians for its work as well as access to the Moscow laboratory at the heart of the doping scandal between 2011-15.

The two are close to being resolved.

On April 30, WADA announced that analysis of data taken from the Moscow lab in January was “almost finished” before being sent to the Athletics Integrity unit (AIU), a watchdog founded by the IAAF to combat doping in the sport.

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And Russian athletics federation chief Dmitry Shlyakhtin said on June 2 that the Task Force costs had been met.

– ‘End of the procedure’ –

“We should be heading towards accepting them back in,” said Frenchman Bernard Amsalem, a member of the 27-strong IAAF council that will vote on Sunday.

“We’ve come to the end of the procedure. Things must now return to normal.”

Things, however, were complicated by a Sunday Times story on June 2 alleging that Russian athletics federation (RUSAF) officials fabricated documents to show that Danil Lysenko, the 2017 world silver high jump medallist was too ill to provide his whereabouts after failing to make himself available for out-of-competition drug testing.

Russia authorities came out blazing, saying they were victims of an “information war” and questioning the timing of the story ahead of the IAAF Council meeting in Monaco.

Lysenko was provisionally suspended last August on the eve of the European Championships in Berlin, after making himself unavailable for testing.

According to the Sunday Times, RUSAF officials used documents from fake doctors working at a bogus clinic in Moscow to cover for Lysenko.

– Shadow of Semenya –

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Russian hopes of reintegration aside, the IAAF Council meeting will also take place in the shadow of double Olympic champion Caster Semenya’s stance against the body’s rules obliging female athletes to lower their testosterone levels in order to compete in certain events.

Switzerland’s highest court on Monday temporarily suspended the IAAF rules following an appeal by Semenya, the South African who won the women’s 800 metres at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics.

The athlete was contesting a decision by the Court of Arbitration for Sport which previously found that the rules were “discriminatory” but “necessary” to ensure fairness in women’s athletics.

“The IAAF will continue to fight for equal rights and opportunities for all women and girls in our sport today and in the future,” the IAAF said in the wake of the Swiss court ruling, adding that it was committed to the “full participation of women” in athletics.

It said it would “seek a swift reversion of the super-provisional order moving forwards”.

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