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(ATR) World Athletics approves a final reinstatement plan for the Russian Athletics Federation (RusAF) which could open the door for a few Russian track and field athletes to compete as neutrals in Tokyo.

The World Athletics Council unanimously agreed with the recommendation of the federation’s Russia Taskforce and has signed off on the plan, which has been published on the federation’s website.

But the process for Russia, which has been suspended by World Athletics since November 2015 for state-sponsored doping, to return to the fold will not be quick.

“This is not the end but the beginning of a long journey, with an incredible amount of work for RusAF to do to rebuild trust,” World Athletics president Sebastian Coe said.

In recommending the reinstatement plan to Council, Russia Taskforce chair Rune Andersen said “[T]he three international experts appointed by World Athletics have worked closely with RusAF on the development of the Reinstatement Plan and advised the Taskforce that they believe the Plan is fit for the purpose of embedding in Russian athletics the deep-rooted change in culture that Council has been demanding for the past five years.

“In addition, although RusAF President Peter Ivanov has been required to step down for two years because of his appointment as a senior official of the Russian Government (to respect the CAS sanctions imposed on Russian Government officials in the WADA/RUSADA compliance case), the international experts also consider that the senior management that Mr Ivanov has put in place will be able to move the Plan forward in his absence, under the temporary leadership of RusAF Vice-President Irina Privalova as Acting President.”

Andersen concluded that the Taskforce would be able to report “to future Council meetings whether RusAF is keeping up with the enormous work that will be required to implement the Reinstatement Plan successfully”.

The approval of a reinstatement plan had been a prerequisite for allowing up to 10 Russian athletes to compete as Authorized Neutral Athletes (ANAs) in international competitions including the Tokyo Olympics.

The taskforce said it will address the question of ANAs in its report to the Council meeting scheduled for March 17-18

The Council, at its last meeting in December, decided that it will consider whether to allow Russian athletes to compete again as ANAs at the March meeting.