BY DUNCAN MACKAY
The Russian Athletics Federation (RusAF) faces the very real threat of being expelled from World Athletics (formerly known as IAAF) following the publication of a report today by the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) that accuses it of failing to accept responsibility for several “serious anti-doping breaches” and that it needs to change.
It leaves Russian athletes facing the prospect of missing this year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo after the AIU also recommended that the suspension of the Authorised Neutral Athlete (ANA) process is maintained until charges against RusAF are fully investigated.
It follows allegations of obstructing an investigation into whereabouts violations committed by world indoor high jump silver medallist Danil Lysenko.
The recommendations were made by the AIU Board after reviewing RusAF’s response to them being charged last November.
These charges came about after RusAF was accused of breaching anti-doping rules relating to the involvement of RusAF officials and representatives in the submission of forged documents and false explanations to the AIU in connection with the whereabouts failures case of Lysenko.
The AIU was scathing in its criticism of how RusAF has so far dealt with the matter.
“The AIU Board finds it regrettable that, in the face of clear and compelling evidence, RusAF has chosen not to admit to the acts and omissions of the employees, directors and representatives of RusAF for which it is liable under the Anti-Doping Rules,” it said in a statement.
“In the AIU Board’s view, a responsible Member Federation in the circumstances would have admitted the charges and shown contrition for its conduct, but RusAF has chosen to do neither.
“Instead, RusAF has gone to great lengths to deny any involvement in the matter, blame others and attack the process.
“This approach is deeply concerning for the AIU Board as it seems to indicate that the current leadership of the Federation is merely a continuation of the former.”
Having been suspended since November 2015 following allegations of state-sponsored doping, the AIU warned that only the severest penalty would force Russia to rehabilitate.
Given the “fact that the previous sanctions of World Athletics have apparently failed to deter RusAF from reoffending, the World Athletics Council should consider imposing on RusAF the severest possible consequences under the World Athletics Constitution, including (without limitation) the payment of indemnity costs and a significant fine; and that it should further consider recommending to the World Athletics Congress that RusAF be expelled from membership,” the AIU said.
RusAF filed a preliminary response on January 2 and a supplementary response on January 16 having had eight weeks in which to respond to the charges, and being granted three extensions of time by the AIU in that period.
“The AIU Board considers in the circumstances that RusAF has had ample opportunity to put forward any material or evidence that it contends answers the AIU’s case against it,” the AIU said.
“So far, in the judgement of the AIU Board, it has not done so.
“The AIU Board has therefore concluded that the case to answer against RusAF for multiple breaches of its obligations under the Anti-Doping Rules remains unimpaired.
“In the circumstances, the AIU Board has no hesitation in referring the matter under the Anti-Doping Rules to the World Athletics Council, so that the matter may be dealt with in accordance with the terms of the World Athletics Constitution, including if need be submission of the dispute to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).”
In the short term, Russian athletes’ biggest concern will be the recommendation from the AIU that the ANA scheme should not be restarted because of “ongoing concerns about the suitability of the current RusAF management to oversee the sport of athletics in Russia with integrity”.
Dmitry Shlyakhtin resigned as President of RusAF last November after he was one of several top Russian officials charged by the AIU in connection with obstruction of a probe into whereabouts violations committed by Lysenko.
He has been accused of using fake medical documents in an attempt to ensure Lysenko avoided punishment and of failing to cooperate with an investigation.
The AIU concluded, following a 15-month probe, that RusAF officials had been involved in the provision of false explanations and forged documents to the AIU in order to explain whereabouts failures by the athlete.
Along with Shlyakhtin, the RusAF executive director Alexander Parkin, the athlete and his coach Yevgeniy Zagorulko had also been charged with “tampering and/or complicity” under the anti-doping rules and been provisionally suspended.
A total of seven individuals associated with RusAF were among those charged by the AIU.
RusAF Board member and President of the Moscow Regional Athletics Federation Artur Karamyan, Elena Orlova, a senior administrator, and anti-doping coordinator Elena Ikonnikova had also been suspended.
Shlyakhtin was replaced by Yulia Tarasenko, widely seen as being an extension of the former regime.
ANA was established by World Athletics as a category under which Russian athletes could compete at international competitions providing they could prove they had been regularly drugs-tested and had not been involved in the previous doping scandal.
Two Russian athletes competing under the ANA banner won gold medals at last year’s World Championships in Doha and would be considered among the favourites for this year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo.
They were high jumper Mariya Lasitskene and pole vaulter Anzhelika Sidorova.
“The charges brought by the AIU against RusAF for breach of the World Athletics Anti-Doping Rules are extremely serious,” World Athletics said in a statement.
“World Athletics will be reviewing the files submitted to them by the AIU over the next couple of days.”