IAAF suspends Russian federation amid doping controversy

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The world governing body of athletics unanimously voted Friday to provisionally suspend Russia’s track and field federation and its athletes from the sport following widespread doping allegations.

The International Association of Athletics Federations’ (IAAF) council voted 22-1 in favor of the sanction, with the Russian representative not able to cast his vote.

Saying that the sport is in a “shameful” position, IAAF president Sebastian Coe said Russia will be barred from the 2016 Rio Olympics unless it is able to convincingly prove that it has cleaned up its act on doping.

IAAF President Sebastian Coe.  (Philippe Fitte / IAAF)

IAAF President Sebastian Coe. (Philippe Fitte / IAAF)

The move came four days after Russia was accused of operating a state-sponsored doping program in a report released by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

This means that Russia is banned from all international track and field competition for an undetermined period, including next year’s Summer Games in Brazil, until it is proven that the country has fixed its problems and have complied with global anti-doping rules.

Coe, a two-time Olympic 1,500-meter champion from Britain who was elected IAAF president in August, was put under very heavy pressure to take tough action, despite efforts by Russian officials to avoid a blanket ban by agreeing to cooperate and make reforms in their anti-doping system.

“This is not about politics. This is about protection of clean athletes,” Coe said. “It is why our council has sent such a strong message.”

Coe said their decision, via a secret voting of the IAAF council via teleconference – was “the toughest sanction we can apply at this time.” It was the first time the athletics’ governing body has ever banned a country over its doping failures.

The WADA report stated an alleged “systemic” conspiracy between Russia’s athletes and the country’s federation and anti-doping authorities that allowed athletes to use performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) without fear of being detected or tested. Positive results were either destroyed or covered up.

The same report recommended suspending the Russian federation until a new guidelines are implemented.

IAAF council member Mikhail Butov presented the Russian federation’s position during Friday’s meeting.

“Today we have been dealing with the failure of ARAF (All Russia Athletics Federation) and made the decision to provisionally suspend them, the toughest sanction we can apply at this time,” said Coe in a released statement.

He added that Russia will need to fulfill “a list of criteria” for it to be reinstated.

An independent inspection team, to be led by Norwegian anti-doping expert Rune Andersen, will be monitoring Russia’s progress in the coming days.

“It is entirely up to the Russian federation and Russia to enact those changes,” Coe said. “Our verification team will be tough. It is for the IAAF and no other organization to make that judgment. We will get the change that we want, and only then will Russian athletes be able to return to competition.”

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