Russian track and field athletes have been banned, with some exceptions, from the Rio Olympics this summer.
The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) unanimously voted to uphold the ban on Russian athletes Friday amid widespread allegations of state-sponsored doping.
“The Russian athletes could not credibly return to international competition without undermining the confidence” of athletes and others, said Sebastian Coe, president of the IAAF.
Rune Andersen, chair of the IAAF task force inspecting Russia, said that the “deep-seated culture” of tolerance to doping in Russia has not materially changed.
“Because the system in Russia has been tainted by doping from the top level down, we cannot trust that what we call ‘clean’ athletes really are clean,” he said.
The ban was first put in place following a report by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) in November.
A follow-up report, released Wednesday, outlined numerous examples of continued doping violations on the part of both Russian athletes and officials. Some of these examples included athletes physically running away from doping-control officers in order to avoid testing, while others described instances of police and military intimidation aimed at WADA and other anti-doping officials.
The report also described one instance in which a female athlete was caught hiding a “container inserted inside her body (presumably containing clean urine).” The container malfunctioned and spilled, and the athlete later tested positive for banned substances.
However, there is still some hope for some individual Russian athletes. Some may be allowed to compete, not for Russia, but as a “neutral entity”, said Andersen, provided they can clearly and convincingly show that they have not been “tainted” by the Russian system. They would have to prove that they were subject to a reliable drug-testing regime run outside of Russia.
And, some individual cases of athletes who have made an extraordinary contribution to anti-doping may also be considered, notably that of whistleblower Yulia Stepanova. The 800-meter runner and her husband provided information that led to a broad investigation of doping in Russia. The IAAF task force is recommending that she be allowed to compete.
The Russian Sports Ministry said it is “extremely disappointed” that the IAAF has ruled to uphold its ban on the country’s track and field athletes competing in international competitions, including the Olympics.
The ministry said Russia had done “everything possible” to be readmitted following its ban in November.
The ministry added, “We now appeal to the members of the International Olympic Committee to not only consider the impact that our athletes’ exclusion will have on their dreams and the people of Russia, but also that the Olympics themselves will be diminished by their absence.”
Speaking before the IAAF announcement, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that clean athletes should not be punished for doping. “There cannot be collective responsibility for all athletes or athletes of one federation if someone has been caught,” he said.
He also said that the Russian government has never been, and “cannot be” involved in organizing doping.
With files from the Canadian Press and Brian Hill, Global News