MOSCOW— -- The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) today upheld a ban barring all Russian track-and-field athletes from competing at this summer’s Olympics in Brazil, potentially excluding a country from an Olympics for the first time in history over doping among its athletes
IAAF president Seb Coe said the body’s council in Austria had voted unanimously to uphold the suspension of Russia’s Athletics Federation, saying Russia had failed to meet criteria proving its athletes could be trusted to compete clean.
Russian athletes had been suspended since November, when a World Anti-Doping Agency report accused the Russian government of presiding over a state-sponsored cover-up of doping among its athletes.
Speaking after the meeting, Coe told a news conference the criteria for reinstatement had been “very clear” and that Russia had not met them.
But there remains a chance that Russian athletes will still allowed to compete, when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) next week meets to consider whether to let athletes with clean testing records compete as individuals. The IOC has said it will meet Tuesday to discuss the question after the IAAF decision.
Coe said today’s decision left the door open to this, but the IAAF would not allow any athletes to compete under the Russian national flag.
Russia’s sports ministry immediately appealed to the IOC to “weigh again the consequences” of creating a precedent by barring an entire team.
In a statement released on its website, the ministry said Russia had “fulfilled all the IAAF conditions” for its athletes to be reinstated and criticized the decision as based on “biased attitudes.”
Some Russian athletes also said they would launch legal proceedings to appeal the decision. Two-time Olympic champion pole-vaulter Elena Isinbaeva told the state news agency TASS that she would be going to court. Isinbaeva said the decision violated her human rights.
Many athletes are expected to bring claims to the international quasi-judicial Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), where they will argue it is unfair to punish clean athletes for others’ violations.
In its damning report in November, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) found that Russia was running an elaborate system, overseen by government officials and its F.S.B. security services, that allowed dozens its athletes to compete dirty at international competitions. The scale of the system and the level of state involvement in it led to the IAAF’s suspending Russia’s track and field federation.
Russian athletes, as well as officials, including president Vladimir Putin, have never accepted that the doping cover-up was a state-sponsored system.
“There is no system,” Yuri Borzakovsky, a celebrated Russian runner who now heads Russia’s national athletics team, told ABC News last month in Sochi.
Some had raised the idea that the IOC might allow Russian athletes to compete if they can show that they are clean.
But Coe today made it clear that those wishing to compete in Rio de Janeiro would not be doing so under the Russian flag. Russian athletics officials have previously rejected the idea of the country’s competing under the Olympic flag, but they may now reverse their position.
The idea of allowing clean athletes to compete has been cautiously supported by a number of other international sports bodies and some national federations. The head of U.K. sport, Ed Warner, told The Daily Telegraph that, in principle, he thought the idea was right, but that they would have to “police it very hard,” meaning athletes would have to be thoroughly tested.
Rune Andersen, who led the IAAF task force evaluating whether Russia had done enough to be reinstated, today said athletes would have to prove that they were “outside the doping system in Russia.”
Athletes hoping to compete would also have to receive clean tests, conducted by outside agencies.
Since the scandal, Russia has accepted an unusually intensive testing regime for its potential Olympic athletes: They now have to pass three to six tests within six months, conducted by foreign anti-doping agencies. The country has created a pool of about 200 athletes to be subjected to the tests and many of Russia’s top athletes have already received the three clean tests while others are still waiting, athletes have told ABC News.
The Kremlin had attacked a potential ban as a U.S.-backed plot meant to punish Russia and undermine its authorities.
Sports are a key part of Putin’s rule in Russia, who has made it a measure of the country’s national greatness. Analysts say that stripping Russia of the Olympics would force the Kremlin to again ratchet up anti-Western feeling and respond aggressively.
“I am literally scared of what they might do,” Maksim Trudolyubov, a columnist at respected Russian business paper Vedomosti, told ABC News a day before the vote. “Not tomorrow. But it’s building up. It’s building up this crazy feeling of being cornered.”