Yelena Isinbayeva

Yelena Isinbayeva
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Yelena Isinbayeva to sue if barred from Rio Olympics

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MOSCOW (AP) — Two-time Olympic pole vault champion Yelena Isinbayeva plans to file suit if Russia’s ban from global track and field competition remains in place and she is barred from competing at the games in Rio de Janeiro.

“It’s a direct violation of human rights, discrimination,” Isinbayeva said.

Russia’s athletics federation was suspended by the IAAF in November after a World Anti-Doping Agency commission report detailed systematic, state-sponsored doping. The IAAF is due to rule next month on whether to reinstate Russia ahead of the Rio Olympics in August.

“In the case of a negative ruling for us, I will personally go to an international court regarding human rights,” Isinbayeva said. “And I’m confident that I’ll win.”

Speaking from her home city of Volgograd in a Skype interview arranged by Russian track officials, Isinbayeva held up four forms documenting recent drug tests she had passed — proof enough, she said, that she should be allowed to compete in Rio.

“Of course I’m angry because of this helplessness. All I can do now is train,” she said, adding that young Russian athletes’ careers could be destroyed if they have to wait until 2020 to go to the Olympics. “Four years, it’s a long time. Many of them can be, how can you say, broken.”

Isinbayeva’s comments came as a key adviser to Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said that Russia’s government supports making doping a criminal offense.

Adviser Nataliya Zhelanova told reporters at the ministry that the government hopes to get the law on the statute books for 2017, targeting coaches and officials who encourage or coerce athletes to dope. Fines or prison sentences were possible, she said, though this could change during the legislative process.

“It’s quite a long procedure but now everyone understood that we are in crisis and we have to do quick steps to fix the situation,” Zhelanova said.

In December, the IAAF asked the Russian track federation to consider lobbying for distribution and trafficking of doping substances to be made a criminal offense.

The new head of the Russian track federation maintained Russia was on track to meet IAAF conditions for reinstatement, but admitted to The Associated Press that a notorious training center was still part of the country’s track and field system.

The IAAF last year demanded the federation “immediately suspend all cooperation” with race-walking coach Viktor Chegin‘s state-funded center in the city of Saransk, which has been linked to more than 25 doping cases.

While Chegin was later banned for life, several of his top athletes are still competing and would be Olympic medal contenders if Russia is reinstated.

“I don’t rule out that (athletes are) living and training there,” Russian track and field president Dmitry Shlyakhtin said in an interview with the AP, adding that dozens of coaches who were part of Chegin’s hierarchy remained part of the federation’s system.

“If we shut down the Chegin center as a key point, we can’t stop and we won’t stop 75 coaches who are clean and transparent,” Shlyakhtin said.

Shlyakhtin said those coaches were working with children, but documents from this year’s national championships show top Russian walkers continuing to work with coaches from the main Chegin center. Officially, the athletes now represent local clubs and sports schools in and around the city.

Former Olympic gold medalist Olga Kaniskina, who lost her 2012 Olympic silver medal because of a doping ban, won the Russian 20-kilometer title in February in the fastest time recorded in the world this season. Federation documents list her as being coached by three trainers from the Chegin center and officially representing a children’s sports school, even though she is 31 years old.

“Kaniskina has finished her ban. She’s completely rehabilitated,” Shlyakhtin said. “Western people who are caught doping are not outcasts (either).”

Sergei Kirdyapkin, who lost his Olympic gold medal from 2012 due to a doping ban, is listed as being coached by Chegin center coaches, as is national champion Sergei Bakulin, who was stripped of his 2011 world championship gold. Both recently returned from doping bans.

Ahead of next month’s IAAF vote, Shlyakhtin said he was confident that Russia had made a significant effort to reform.

He said “90 percent” of the conditions for reinstatement had been fulfilled, including extra testing for Russia’s national track team in recent months and a shakeup of senior management.

Shlyakhtin suggested political interference, rather than a lack of reforms, could keep Russia out of the Rio Games, saying that countries such as Ukraine, Belarus, India and “especially China” deserved similar scrutiny on doping. He hinted that international officials turned a blind eye to some violations.

“The brakes are put on a lot of issues and they go away. Let’s all play fair according to one set of rules,” he said.

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Russia looks to miss World Indoor Track and Field Championships

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The IAAF says the inspection team monitoring Russia’s anti-doping reforms will report back in late March, meaning the national track team would miss the World Indoor Championships in the United States.

The March 17-20 championships in Portland, Oregon, are the first major competition that Russia would miss under its provisional suspension from the IAAF.

The indefinite ban was imposed last week after Russia was accused by an independent World-Anti-Doping Agency commission of running a state-sponsored doping program.

Russian officials have said they hope to return to competition in less than three months.

But the IAAF said Thursday it has set a date of March 27 — a week after the Portland championships end — for its inspectors to deliver their first report to the governing council.

Olympic pole vault champion Yelena Isinbayeva had said she hoped to return to competition by February after missing all of the 2014 season while having a baby.

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Russia track and field provisionally suspended by IAAF

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LONDON (AP) — Calling it a wake-up call for a sport in a “shameful” position, IAAF President Sebastian Coe said Russia will be banned from next year’s Olympics unless it convinces the world it has cleaned up its act on doping.

The sport’s governing body provisionally suspended Russia’s track and field federation on Friday, four days after the country was accused of operating a vast, state-sponsored doping program in a damning report by a World Anti-Doping Agency commission.

The move bars Russia from all international track and field competition for an indefinite period, including the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, until the country is judged to have fixed its problems and fallen into line with global anti-doping rules.

Coe called the decision — approved 22-1 in a secret vote of the IAAF council via teleconference — “the toughest sanction we can apply at this time.” It’s the first time the International Association of Athletics Federations has ever banned a country over its doping failures.

“The whole system has failed the athletes, not just in Russia but around the world,” Coe said after a meeting that lasted nearly 3 1/2 hours. “This has been a shameful wake-up call and we are clear that cheating at any level will not be tolerated.”

“It makes me angry,” added Coe, a two-time Olympic 1500m champion from Great Britain. “We find ourselves in a shameful position tonight.”

Coe, who was elected IAAF president in August, had been under heavy pressure to take tough action, despite efforts by Russian officials to avoid a blanket ban by agreeing to cooperate and make reforms in their anti-doping system.

“This is not about politics, this is about protection of clean athletes,” Coe said. “It is why our council has sent such a strong message.”

Coe said Russia will need to fulfill “a list of criteria” to win reinstatement. An independent inspection team led by Norwegian anti-doping expert Rune Andersen will be appointed in the next few days to verify Russia’s progress.

Still uncertain is whether the Russian federation will be able to reform in time for its athletes to compete at the Rio Games, which run from Aug. 5-21.

“It is entirely up to the Russian federation and Russia to enact those changes,” Coe said. “Our verification team will be tough. … It is for the IAAF and no other organization to make that judgment. We will get the change that we want and only then will Russian athletes be able to return to competition.”

Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said he is hopeful Russia will be able to compete at the World Indoor Championships in Portland, Oregon, from March 17-20.

“Anyway, the main thing is the Olympics,” he said.

Unless the Russian federation voluntarily accepts a full suspension, the IAAF will hold a hearing to elevate the provisional penalty to a full suspension.

Russia will also be stripped of hosting the world race walking team championships in Cheboksary from May 7-15, and the world junior championships in Kazan from July 19-24.

Russian athletes are eligible to compete in their own national events during the ban.

Russia’s IAAF council member, Mikhail Butov, addressed Friday’s meeting but did not take part in the vote. He said Russia’s return to competition “will depend on how convincing we are with our case and how objective the commission is.”

“We’ll work with them,” he told reporters in Moscow.

WADA called the IAAF decision “positive news for clean athletes worldwide.”

It came on the same day that a WADA committee found Russia’s national anti-doping agency to be non-compliant with its code. The findings will go to the WADA foundation board, which will vote on it next Wednesday in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

WADA has already suspended the anti-doping laboratory in Moscow.

Travis Tygart, CEO of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, said the IAAF’s suspension of Russia was the “only outcome acceptable to clean athletes.”

“The real test now is to ensure full justice and accountability for all their actions before being allowed to compete again,” he said.

Coe announced that Paul Deighton, who served as chief executive of the organizing committee for the 2012 London Olympics, will oversee a program of reform of the IAAF’s governance.

Coe also said he will create an “integrity unit” dealing with doping, illegal betting, age cheating and corruption.

“We need to look at ourselves within our sport, my organization as well,” Coe said, “and we will do that.”

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