By Mitch Phillips
MONACO (Reuters) – Russia’s athletics ban will run into 2017 and may include the August world championships after a Task Force monitoring the nation’s anti-doping programme refused on Thursday to put any dates on a “road map” for a return.
Rune Andersen, the Norwegian heading the independent Task Force, reported to the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Council that there had been areas of progress but many issues still needed clarifying in the new year.
IAAF president Sebastian Coe said the Council felt “comforted” the changes had come about as a result of the decision to ban the Russians but recognized that athletics still had work to do to regain the trust of the public.
“This is a pretty important week in the history of our sport,” said Coe who will present a series of radical governance reforms to a special Congress meeting on Saturday.
“I do not want this sport to return to the grotesque stories that even over the last few days we’ve been waking up to,” he added, in reference to recent allegations of more corruption in the organization under its previous leadership.
The Russian Federation (RUSAF) was banned in November 2015 after an independent World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) probe exposed state-sponsored doping on a massive scale.
The suspension was upheld earlier this year, ruling almost all Russian track and field athletes out of the Rio Olympics.
On Thursday, Andersen indicated there was a chink of light for the country, one of the super-powers of athletics.
“RUSAF has made further progress since June including anti-doping education modules and securing the co-operation of the Russian criminal authorities and parliament in criminalizing the supply of doping products,” he told a news conference.
“But one of the key remaining issues is how to demonstrate the IAAF and RUSADA (Russian Anti-Doping) will be able to carry out testing without interference which is a key part of their reinstatement.
“The Task Force will go to Moscow in January to assess the response to part two of the McLaren report on Dec. 9 and to monitor progress.”
Richard McLaren, co-author of the independent WADA report, is due to release the second part of his findings in London next week.
Andersen said the Task Force would report back to Council in February when it hoped to “identify a clear road map” for Russia’s return.
However, he declined to give any further likely timeframe and it appears unlikely the nation will be in the frame for the European indoor championships in Belgrade in March.
Earlier on Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin used his state of the nation address to say he thought effective measures would be in place early in the new year.
“I am sure the so-called doping scandal will allow us to create the most advanced system of righting this evil in Russia,” Putin said.
“I assume the national programme of counter-acting doping will be ready as early as the beginning of next year.”
On Friday, the IAAF will announce the winners of the male and female athlete of the year awards while Saturday’s Congress is to discuss and almost certainly improve Coe’s radical shakeup of the organization.
Those changes, geared towards making the IAAF more accountable and transparent and establishing an independent integrity unit, will be debated against a backdrop of more allegations of massive corruption by Coe’s predecessor Lamine Diack and his son Papa Massata Diack.
Both men are being investigated by French prosecutors for alleged corruption and money-laundering and have been accused of accepting bribes to cover up positive doping tests and influencing the award of hosting rights for major events.
(Editing by Tony Jimenez)