By Zoran Milosavljevic
BELGRADE (Reuters) - The track and field circuit wants Russia to eradicate doping so the country's athletes can return to action in full force, the head of the European Athletic Association said on Thursday.
After revelations of widespread doping and corruption, Russian athletes were banned from international competition by the International Association of Athletics Federations, and last month the IAAF said the ban probably would not be lifted before November of this year.
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Meanwhile, the National Anti-Doping Organisations (NADOs) have called for a blanket ban on Russia from international sport.
But speaking at a media conference before the Friday-Sunday European Indoor Championships in Belgrade, Svein Arne Hansen, the president of the European association, said he was convinced the Russians understood what they needed to do.
"We want Russia back, that is clear," he said. "We are working very closely on this situation and we had a meeting in Monaco a month ago. The task force gave their report and they saw progress in Russia.
"I see progress in Russia, and I have the feeling that there is a change of mentality there, especially at the top level. This is the way to go and I hope they will be back sooner rather than later."
After the NADOs urged Russia's banning, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday the country had never had a state-sponsored doping program. He acknowledged there had been individual doping offences .
However, the head of an World Anti-Doping Agency investigation into Russian doping, Richard McLaren, said last year that efforts to conceal positive drug tests among the country's athletes had become "an institutionalized and disciplined medal-winning conspiracy".
The IAAF ban means any Russian track and field athletes cleared to compete at international events must do so under a neutral flag having shown they have been monitored by a bona-fide anti-doping regime. Only one of them, long jumper Darya Klishina, is competing in Belgrade.
Hansen stressed that international athletics bodies would maintain zero tolerance for doping offences.
"We are working under an umbrella giving a strong message from the athletes that they want to compete with other clean athletes, not only in our championships but in all other competitions," he said.
"We believe that athletes are committed to follow this, because none of us would be in sport if we didn’t believe in clean sport."
(Editing by Larry King)