IAAF Task Force Chief Praises Anti-Doping Changes Made by Russia but Warns Cultural Problems Remain
Fresh accusations of state-sponsored doping by Russia during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi have been “discussed” by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Task Force, they have admitted as they continue their assessment of whether the country has done enough to justify having its ban lifted in time for Rio 2016.
The All-Russia Athletic Federation (ARAF) was suspended by the IAAF in November following the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Independent Commission published a report which confirmed allegations of systematic doping.
Andersen, a Norwegian anti-doping expert, was appointed head of a Task Force by the IAAF to assess whether Russia has fulfilled a specific list of criteria necessary for the ban to be lifted and for athletes to be able to compete at Rio 2016.
He is due to report to the IAAF ahead of a decision during a Council meeting in Vienna on June 17.
Andersen revealed he had already discussed the allegations of former Moscow Laboratory director Grigory Rodchenkov that up to 15 medal winners from Russia at Sochi 2014 were implicated in a doping programme.
He insisted that “everything is [being taken] into consideration; both positive and negative things”.
Andersen provided some praise at the the changes already implemented.
“They’ve done plenty, to say the least,” he was reported as saying by Norwegian newspaper Verdens Gang during a sports management meeting in Oslo.
“They have done a tremendous job on the technical side.
“There has been considerable work done from the Russian side and this is important to underline in the midst of all the negative attention.”
Andersen also questioned how much difference they would really be able to make in such a short time-span.
“They still have a problem to change a culture in just six months that has been there for 30 to 40 years,” he said.
These comments, while cautious, provide a first indication that the IAAF are pleased with some elements of the Russian reaction.
There has also been suggestions, however, that there has been little improvement, with UK Anti-Doping Agency reporting difficulties in entering some parts of the country and carrying out testing since they were appointed to help the Russian Anti-Doping Agency improve their code compliance.
One of the conditions for reinstatement is that both the IAAF and the Russian Anti-Doping Agency must be able to carry out drug-testing activities in Russia “effectively and without interference”.
The participation of Russian athletes must not jeopardise the integrity of international competitions is another criteria.
Russia’s Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko has repeatedly outlined the work being done to change the culture, but athletes and other international commentators remain skeptical.
United States Anti-Doping chief executive Travis Tygart has called for Russia to be given a blanket-ban from all international sport if the Rodchenkov allegations are proven.
The issue is expected to be discussed in detail during the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Executive Board meeting starting here in Lausanne today.
Andersen believes is it is unrealistic to ever fully eradicate doping from sport.
“There is too much at stake for us to achieve a complete clean sport, but one must have the structure in place, and the WADA Code has been pretty good,” he said.
“Had everyone followed it, we could reduce doping use by 80 to 90 per cent, and that is the challenge.
“We can make good legislation, but if it is not complied with [then] we come up short.”
Andersen called on the IOC, as “sport’s highest body”, to do more to ensure International Federations and nations implement the adopted regulations.
Other members of the IAAF Task Force include Namibia’s four-time Olympic medallist, IAAF Athletes’ Commission chair and IOC member Frankie Fredericks and Canada’s Abby Hoffman, the 1966 Commonwealth Games gold medallist, who is now a senior executive in her country’s Ministry of Health and a member of the IAAF Council.
They are joined by Anna Riccardi, a technical delegate for Rio 2016 who is also head of team services sport and the Olympic programme area at the Italian National Olympic Committee, and Oceania Athletics Association President Geoff Gardner, a former Chief Minister, Speaker and Member of the Legislative Assembly of Norfolk Island.
By Nick Butler
Republished with permission from insidethegames.biz