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Russia makes ‘little progress’ for track and field return, IAAF says

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LONDON (AP) — Russia’s lack of progress in cleaning up its doping culture and introducing a satisfactory testing regime continues to impede the country’s reinstatement to track and field, the IAAF said on Thursday.

Providing its latest update on Russia’s state-sponsored doping system, the IAAF also criticized the country’s decision to make Yelena Isinbayeva the head of the country’s scandalized anti-doping agency.

“It is difficult to see how this helps to achieve the desired change in culture in Russia track and field, or how it helps to promote an open environment for Russian whistleblowers,” Russia task force chairman Rune Andersen said in his report to the IAAF Council.

Isinbayeva repeatedly criticized the World Anti-Doping Agency, framed doping investigations as an anti-Russian plot, and called for a leading whistleblower to be banned for life.

The two-time gold medalist and world-record holder missed the Rio de Janeiro Olympics because of a ban on Russia’s track and field team that is unlikely to be lifted soon based on the IAAF’s fresh concerns.

“There is no reason why better progress has not been made,” IAAF President Sebastian Coe said, “and RUSAF (Russia’s track and field federation) should be under no illusion at all that we will stick to this. The criteria are serious and will be followed through.”

But they currently are not, according to Coe, who insists the IAAF will not soften its tough stance.

“There is testing but it is still far too limited,” Coe said. “The Russian investigative committee is still refusing to hand over athlete biological passport samples for independent testing from labs, we still have got athletes in closed cities that are difficult or impossible to get to, the ongoing employment of coaches from a tainted system, and we have got the head coach of RUSAF effectively refusing to sign their own pledge to clean athletics.”

The IAAF is allowing some Russians to compete internationally as neutrals while their country remained banned, with 12 athletes proving they have been adequately tested for drugs over a lengthy period by non-Russian agencies.

The athletes are still “subject to acceptance of their entries by individual meeting organizers,” such as the Diamond League series, the IAAF has said. The 14-meet circuit opens on May 5 in Doha, Qatar.

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MORE: Russian track and field stars cleared to compete

IOC expects decisions on Russian doping cases next month

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Investigators at the International Olympic Committee expect to have “a number” of doping cases involving Russians at the Sochi Olympics resolved by the end of November, but they have no plans to dictate the eligibility of these athletes for next year’s Winter Games in PyeongChang.

The leader of an IOC delegation in charge of reviewing 28 cases involving athletes at Sochi wrote to the head of the IOC Athletes Commission this week to update the timeline of cases stemming from a report detailing a Russian doping scheme at the 2014 Olympics and beforehand.

Denis Oswald said that of the cases his committee is reviewing, priority has been given to those involving athletes looking to compete in PyeongChang. Top priority goes to six cross-country skiers whose provisional suspensions expire Oct. 31.

Oswald also said his committee would rule on these athletes’ results for Sochi, but will not determine their eligibility for PyeongChang, instead handing over evidence to their respective sports federations to decide.

The IOC also appointed a task force to look at the Russian doping scandal as a whole, the results of which could have wider repercussions on the country’s eligibility at next year’s Olympics.

In a separate letter sent to worldwide sports leaders, IOC President Thomas Bach said only that the Schmid Commission is continuing its evaluation and that “I hope that the IOC Executive Board will still be able to take a decision this year because none of us want this serious issue to overshadow” the upcoming Olympics.

The updates come amid a growing chorus of calls for a timely decision and for Russia’s ouster from PyeongChang.

The IOC commissions are operating off information from the McLaren Report, the first part of which was released in July 2016.

In explaining the timeline, Oswald wrote that because the Russian scheme involved exchanging dirty urine samples with clean ones, it took time to adopt methods to verify that samples had been tampered with — in part by finding evidence of scratch marks on collection bottles that had been opened and re-sealed.

“The task has not been easy in both establishing a methodology in an area in which there are no established protocols,” he wrote, “and then moving through the necessary scientific analysis of each individual sample in a way which would withstand legal challenge.”

MORE: USOC boss calls for immediate action on Russian doping

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Two-time Olympian becomes first woman to lead U.S. national swim team

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — Two-time Olympian Lindsay Mintenko has been picked to lead the U.S. national swimming team. She is the first woman to hold the title.

USA Swimming made the announcement Wednesday.

Mintenko replaces Frank Busch, who retired Oct. 1 as managing director. She has been a member of the national team staff since 2006.

During her swimming career, Mintenko won gold medals as a U.S. team captain at the 2000 and 2004 Olympics 800m freestyle relay and added a silver in 2004 on the 400m freestyle relay.

USA Swimming also announced an organizational restructuring that will place all technical divisions, including the national team, under the oversight of chief operating officer Mike Unger.

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