New leadership gives hope for Russia’s return

New leadership gives hope for Russia’s return

LONDON • Two days after the Russian Athletics Federation (Rusaf) elected a new president, World Athletics (WA) suggested on Wednesday that there was light at the end of a tunnel in terms of the country’s return to the sport.

Russian athletics has been in turmoil since its federation was banned by WA in 2015 on the back of a state-sponsored doping scandal. Rusaf paid a multi-million dollar fine in August to hold off a further suspension, having made little progress along the road map for a return set by WA’s task force.

However, Rune Andersen, the head of the task force who has repeatedly voiced his frustration at the failure of Russian officials to follow the necessary steps or show a change of culture, told WA’s council this week that his initial discussions with new Rusaf president Pyotr Ivanov had given him renewed hope.

“Over the last few months, progress has been made and there is a new Rusaf leadership to put in place the plan,” he told a news conference, following an “open and constructive” call with Ivanov.

The Norwegian said a well-qualified international panel of experts has been appointed to work with Rusaf to draw up a detailed plan with objectives and timelines.

“The experts have already begun working and reported that the team have been very responsive and constructive in their approach,” he added.

“The stage has therefore been set for the new president, if he puts the necessary commitment and resources behind the project, and wins the support of the necessary stakeholders.

“Then the panel of experts are ready to help implement the reinstatement of Rusaf’s membership of world athletics and the reintroduction of its athletes into international competition.”

He said that might be before the March 1 deadline of delivering a plan and that his organisation would consider it then if Rusaf delivers. Should the impasse finally end, it would open the door for Russians to not only compete at next year’s World Athletics championships in Eugene but also at the Tokyo Olympics.

However, that is dependent on Russia succeeding in its appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport against the country’s blanket sporting ban for supplying doctored data to the World Anti-Doping Agency.

The tribunal heard the appeal last month and is expected to make a decision by the end of this month.