World Athletics fines Russia $10m, caps neutral Russian athletes at 10

Monaco, Principality of Monaco: World Athletics on Thursday fined Russia’s track and field federation $10 million for breaching anti-doping rules and capped at 10 the number of Russians allowed to compete as neutrals at the Tokyo Olympics.

The system of allowing Russian athletes to take part as Authorised Neutral Athletes, World Athletics president Sebastian Coe warned, “will be suspended if $5 million of the $10m fine is not paid by 1 July 2020”.

“The remaining $5 million of the fine will be suspended for two years, to be paid immediately if during that period RUSAF (the Russian federation) commits a further breach of the Anti-Doping Rules or fails to make meaningful progress towards satisfying the reinstatement conditions set by Council.”

Coe said the Council felt “severely let down by the previous RUSAF administration, which is why it has approved a new set of criteria for reinstatement of the federation”.

“This requires the new administration to set a clear roadmap for reinstatement, to be approved by Council, and greater oversight of the roadmap process by independent international personnel based in Russia.”

Coe added: “I’m not happy with the situation, but I’m happy that we’ve reached a package that deals both with the sanction and the status of the neutral athletes.

“I think the package was necessary, I think it was realistic and I certainly think it’s proportionate,” the two-time Olympic 1500m gold medallist told AFP.

World Athletics’ decision-making Council had last year put a freeze on the system of allowing Russian athletes to compete as neutrals, simultaneously suspending the process of reinstating RUSAF over charges against its officials that they obstructed an anti-doping investigation.

Those decisions prompted wholesale change at RUSAF. 

The Russian body has just appointed a new head, Yevgeny Yurchenko, who quickly agreed with accusations made by the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) against RUSAF on the wrongdoings in the tipping-point case of high jumper Danil Lysenko, in which “forged documents and false explanations” were provided as an alibi to his whereabouts.

“Before the end of (last) year I did write an uncomprising letter to RUSAF and the (Russian sports) minister and I’m pleased we did get the response we wanted,” Coe told AFP.

“An acceptance of culpability, an acceptance that this has been a very, very damaging series of events, particularly the charges that were laid by the AIU over the falsification of a whereabouts document and also the acceptance that there is contrition, too. That is what we asked for and that is what we have.”

That contrite acknowledgement, paired with wholesale personnel change within RUSAF, opened the door for Rune Andersen’s World Athletics Task Force to deliver a more positive option for Russian athletes, albeit just 10 of them, just 19 weeks away from the Tokyo Olympics.

“This has been discussed in light of what is needed in order to change the culture,” Andersen said of the decision over capping the number of Russian athletes competing as neutrals.

“Bringing the numbers from Rio, with one athlete, from the last world championships in Doha, with 28 ANA athletes, we were trying to find a figure that might trigger change, so we landed with 10 athletes.”

The new set of criteria for RUSAF’s reinstatement, World Athletics said, included the establishment of a commission with at least two representatives appointed by RUSAF’s Athletes’ Commission and two international experts.

The RUSAF Reinstatement Commission is “to draw up a detailed plan to ingrain throughout Russian Athletics a zero tolerance for doping culture, which will be subject to approval by the World Athletics Council”.

The two international experts will work with RUSAF, in Russia, “to ensure the plan is effectively implemented on the ground, and the change in culture is embedded throughout RUSAF’s processes and decision-making”.

Margarita Pakhnotskaya, vice-president of the Russian anti-doping agency (RUSADA) said “RUSAF could fulfill all conditions imposed on it by World Athletics, although some are probably not easy to put in place”.

“But these decisions cannot be qualified as humiliating for Russia. We’ll work with them.”

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