Russia, accused of “state-sponsored” doping, have said they are ready to establish a new anti-doping agency hours before world athletics chiefs meet with exclusion from the 2016 Olympics a potential long-term consequence for Moscow.
Sebastian Coe, the recently-elected president of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), will not be at the organisation’s headquarters in Monaco but will preside over a conference call of the body’s 26 members at around 1800GMT from London.
Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko told R-Sport news agency hours before the IAAF meeting that Moscow was ready to reform or “create a new anti-doping organisation” if the IAAF or the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) demanded it.
A simple majority is all that will be needed to confirm a suspension for Russia who were accused of widespread doping by an independent commission set up by WADA in a report which has shaken track and field, one of the Olympic Games’ flagship attractions.
The 335-page report also blasted Russian officials for blackmailing athletes to cover up positive tests as well as destroying test samples.
Although Russian officials are expected to offer an olive branch by admitting to some cases of cheating, the IAAF is under huge pressure to take strong action less than a year out from the Rio Olympics. Of the 26 members on the IAAF Council, nine are European.
“Europe will support Sebastian Coe. We have full confidence in him. We are all on the same page,” Svein Arne Hansen, the president of European Athletics, told Britain’s Daily Telegraph.
However, one leading IAAF council member, legendary Ukraine pole-vaulter Sergei Bubka who lost out to Coe in the race for the organisation’s top job, warned that it would be wrong to punish innocent athletes for the transgressions of others.
— Sputnik (@SputnikInt) November 12, 2015
“All those involved, officials, managers or coaches, must pay the price,” Bubka told the AIPS world sports journalists association.
“But ordinary athletes, those who have nothing to do with this matter, should not have to miss a single competition.”
The IAAF, he said, needed to live up to its responsibilities as an important player on the world sports stage but it must take it “case by case, person by person”.
On Thursday, Russia sent a formal reply to the allegations ahead of Friday’s meeting. Acting president of Russia’s athletics federation Vadim Zelichenok said that it had produced the response “in such a way as to try to prove our innocence”.
“How many pages is it? One or 100, it’s not important,” he added.
“Acting president of the Russian track federation told the AP he is ready to own up to some of the charges” https://t.co/XLnnZQJG5e
— Gerry Shih (@gerryshih) November 13, 2015
In another development, Russia’s Olympic Committee president Alexander Zhukov flew into Lausanne in Switzerland Thursday evening for talks with International Olympic Committee chief Thomas Bach, R-Sport reported.
The fallout from the WADA report’s damning conclusions reached as far up as Russian President Vladimir Putin who ordered officials to launch their own internal investigation and cooperate with international anti-doping authorities.
“We must do everything in Russia to rid ourselves of this problem,” said Putin, an avid sportsman who led Russia’s bid to host last year’s Winter Olympics and the 2018 football World Cup.
However, he added: “This problem does not exist only in Russia, but if our foreign colleagues have questions, we must answer them.”
Should an Olympic athletics ban be eventually imposed, Sports Minister Mutko rejected the notion of a Russia boycott of Rio 2016.
— POLITICO Europe (@POLITICOEurope) November 12, 2015
In quotes published by British newspaper The Guardian, Mutko said that even if Russia’s athletes are suspended, “we don’t plan to boycott anything, anywhere”.
The WADA-led commission said Russian anti-doping agency RUSADA’s doping control officers had “routinely” accepted bribes from athletes to ensure their doping tests would be found negative, among other damning findings.
The head of Moscow’s anti-doping laboratory resigned on Tuesday after the facility was suspended by WADA, the first scalp to be claimed by the scandal engulfing Russian athletics.
The crisis engulfing athletics comes hot on the heels of a massive corruption scandal at world football’s top body FIFA and as cycling is still recovering from the Lance Armstrong doping scandal.
Fears are growing that the scandal could widen to include other countries and other sports, as WADA suggested in its report
IOC President Thomas Bach said on Wednesday he expects track and field's world governing body to take "the necessary measures" against the Russian federation for its record on doping.
– #360view: IAAF incompetence stinks
– Russia: Kremlin spokesperson calls for proof
Russia could be stripped of two IAAF events as part of sanctions for its doping scandal, it has emerged. The country is expected to be provisionally suspended at meeting of the ruling council of athletics’ world governing body on Friday ahead of a formal disciplinary hearing.
A provisional suspension would see Russia excluded from international competition, and the suspension would have to be confirmed by a disciplinary panel which could see the country banned until it can prove its anti-doping programme is working properly.
The country could also lose two IAAF events next year: the world junior championships in Kazan in July and the world race walking team championships planned for Cheboksary in May.
It follows a report by a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) independent commission which detailed “state-sponsored” doping in Russia with senior figures taking bribes to cover up tests.
It is understood that IAAF president Lord Coe wants to have the disciplinary process completed within a month. He will chair the council meeting on Friday.
Coe has insisted he will not fail in his task to clean up athletics. He said: “I won’t fail, but I also accept that this is a huge journey. I have to do this without fear or favour, and I fully accept that I may not even be around when the full fruits of what I need to do are probably going to be recognised.”
Seb Coe now talking about suspending Russia: is two u-turns on same subject in 11-month period a record?
— David Walsh (@DavidWalshST) November 9, 2015
He said he launched a review the day after he won the IAAF presidency and he is speeding it up in the face of this week’s report. International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach backed Coe to clean up the sport of athletics.
“Now we have this enquiry about athletics, the international federation will draw its conclusion and will take the necessary measures,” Bach said. “We’re convinced that the president, Sebastian Coe, will do whatever is necessary.
“I think also Russia will co-operate to make progress and to be sure that Russian athletics are compliant with WADA. This is what it needs to be in order to participate in the Olympic Games.”
Meanwhile, Russia says a “foreign specialist” could take over as chief of its anti-doping watchdog. The first casualty in the wake of the scandal was the head of Russia’s anti-doping laboratory, Grigory Rodchenkov, who resigned after his laboratory was suspended over the allegations.
“We are absolutely open and ready as a result of consultations with WADA to appoint even a foreign specialist to lead the laboratory if it is necessary,” Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko said.