THE BIG PICTURE: IAAF keeps Russia on suspension, then changes its name to World Athletics

No change.

That was the decision of the International Association of Athletics Associations (IAAF) concerning the Russian Athletics Federation at its Council meeting in Monaco over the weekend. The RusAF continues on suspension, as it has been since 2015.

The IAAF’s Russia Task Force chief, Rune Andersen (NOR) filed a report (available here) which didn’t miss a thing. The six-page document noted in detail that while there was progress toward reinstatement, there was also what Andersen called “back-sliding”:

● The IAAF required that the Russian federation pay $3,246,948 to reimburse its costs for its expenses (so far) related to the Russian investigation. This is being handled.

● The verification of the Moscow Laboratory data and the re-testing of samples is proceeding, but slowly. The report noted that the IAAF’s Athletics Integrity Unit is expected to receive some 110,000 data files from the World Anti-Doping Agency which relate to records of Russian athletes in athletics on the 18th of June. There are about 1,800 doping samples involving such athletes and the Task Force recommended that nothing be done until the required re-testing is completed. That’s going to take some time.

● The report further noted the recent reports of a cover-up attempt of a “whereabouts” violation concerning World Indoor Champion high jumper Danil Lysenko, and reports of banned coaches continuing to work with athletes.

Andersen’s conclusion included this:

“The Taskforce acknowledges that RusAF President Dmitry Shlyakhtin has been very upfront about these recent problems, and has assured the Taskforce that he is doing everything in his power to get them investigated and resolved as soon as possible. Mr Shlyakhtin has repeatedly affirmed his commitment to the new culture of zero tolerance for doping in Russian athletics. However, the question is whether all Russian officials and athletes share that commitment, particularly in the regions. Perhaps it will require an intervention from President Putin himself to help them get the message that things must change.”

The Report further suggested that any reinstatement be done in phases to maintain pressure in favor of compliance. The next report will come in September, prior to the IAAF World Championships in Doha (QAT).

Not surprisingly, Russian officials were unhappy. The TASS News Agency reported that Russian Olympic Committee President Stanislav Pozdnyakov called the decision “lamentable” and added:

“Undeniably, there are still many issues in the Russian athletics, there are cases of anti-doping rules violations. But, firstly, they are isolated incidents and definitely cannot be characterized as systematic. Secondly, they are becoming rarer, while measures against those involved in these cases are becoming stricter. Achieving everything at once is impossible, but we are addressing the issues step by step, according to the plan.

“[W]e are talking about the violations of the past years, which resulted in the RusAF suspension, and the personal responsibility of those, who can be found guilty. However, how does it implicate the rights of [Maria] Lasitskine, [Sergei] Shubenkov, [Anzhelika] Sidorova or any other clean athletes to compete as part of the national team under the Russian flag? How long will they have to pay for the wrongdoings of others? We are talking about the fates of people, some [athletes] retired because they did not see any prospects, this is a real sports tragedy.

“I hope that colleagues in the IAAF understand this, and the intention to speed up the reinstatement of the RusAF’s membership, which they voiced, will be implemented in the near future.”

Pozdnyakov did not acknowledge that athletes such as those mentioned are competing internationally, although as “Authorized Neutral Athletes” and not as Russians. It appears that will continue for a while.

The IAAF also announced that it would be changing its name to World Athletics and adopting a silly new logo (pictured above), to be implemented after the Doha World Championships. Said IAAF President Sebastian Coe, “The hope is that our new brand will help attract and engage a new generation of young people to athletics.” Nope; it looks like a logo for a mountain-climbing group, or a weather pattern. Dumb.

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