Russian Athletics Staves Off Expulsion

(ATR) The World Athletics Council gives the Russian Athletics Federation another chance to pay the penalty for doping violations.

(ATR) The World Athletics Council gives the Russian Athletics Federation (RusAF) another chance to avoid expulsion.

Russian Sports Minister Oleg Matytsin, in a letter today, promised to pay a $5 million fine and an additional $1.31 million in costs tied to various anti-doping violations by August 15. The payment was due July 1.

But that alone will no longer be enough to stave off expulsion and return Russia to the reinstatement process.

The Council agreed to follow the recommendations set forth by the Taskforce on Russia that also require a draft plan "of suitable scope and depth" from the RusAF Reinstatement Commission by August 31. Any changes to the plan requested by the Taskforce must be made by Sept. 30. The plan must then be "brought into effect and satisfactory progress achieved" as reported by the Taskforce to Council in its subsequent meetings.

If any of those conditions are not met, then RusAF would "immediately and automatically" face expulsion. A special Congress would be convened as soon as possible to consider and vote on the proposal to expel RusAF.

Rune Andersen, the Taskforce chair, told reporters in a teleconference that Matytsin "has indicated his intention to support the reinstatement process moving forward".

Andersen says his group has spent "an enormous amount of time and effort trying to help RusAF reform itself and Russian athletics, for the benefit of all clean Russian athletes" but the response from RusAF had been inadequate to this point.

Technically, the Taskforce and Council recommended to Congress that RusAF should be expelled for its failure to satisfactorily address the requirements put forth in March. But that decision has been suspended and will not take effect if RusAF adheres to the new conditions.

Athletes may apply for Authorized Neutral Athletes (ANA) status for 2020 competitions but no approvals will be granted until RusAF pays the outstanding fine and completes a draft plan that is to the Taskforce’s satisfaction.

Should RusAF fail to meet the conditions, the "Neutral Athlete" mechanism will be closed to Russian athletes.

RusAF has been suspended by World Athletics since 2015 over widespread doping but has been in even hotter water since November, when RusAF’s then-president Dmitry Shlyakhtin was among seven officials and representatives charged with using forged documents and giving false explanations in an anti-doping investigation of Russian athlete Danil Lysenko.

Andersen says he does not know the source of the money that Russia is promising to pay. At the July 1 deadline, RusAF President Yevgeny Yurchenko said his federation did not have the money to pay the fine due to financial losses caused by the coronavirus pandemic. He resigned his position less than two weeks later after only five months on the job.

The payments were part of set of reinstatement criteria approved by the Council on March 12 after Yurchenko, on his third day in charge on March 2, admitted wrongdoing and apologized for RusAF covering up Lysenko’s doping violations.

As a result of the missed payment, World Athletics earlier this month suspended the work of its Russian Taskforce and Doping Review Board until the Council could meet this week.

"This has been a tortuous process and I’m not going to sit here and say that it’s been anything other than frustrating," World Athletics President Sebastian Coe said in the teleconference.

"At least it does allow us now to recognize that the sanction that was given by the Council in March has been recognized. At least now we’re in a position to continue the reinstatement process having at least a very clear indication that they have accepted the seriousness and severity of the situation."

Coe also seemed to take a swipe at other sporting bodies, presumably including the IOC and WADA, saying that his federation’s anti-doping effort "hasn’t always been helped by the fact that in so many cases we have been a lone voice as a sport in this area and we’ve had to plow the field ourselves on most occasions".

Written by Gerard Farek

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