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Russia’s Olympic track and field decision expected in May

Seb Coe

MONACO - NOVEMBER 26: Lord Sebastian Coe, President of the IAAF answers questions from the media during a press conference following the IAAF Council Meeting at the Fairmont Monte Carlo Hotel on November 26, 2015 in Monaco, Monaco. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

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MONACO (AP) — Russia still has “significant work” to do to repair its anti-doping program before its track and field athletes can be considered for reinstatement ahead of the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, the IAAF said Friday.

The sport’s world governing body said Russia has made progress but not yet done enough to meet the conditions for readmission to global track and field competition. The IAAF will meet again in May for what likely will be a final decision on Russia’s eligibility for the games in August.

IAAF President Sebastian Coe made the announcement at the end of a two-day council meeting in Monaco, where officials examined the efforts of the Russian federation — known as RUSAF — to reform its anti-doping system.

“While progress has been made, the council unanimously agreed that the Russian authorities need to undertake further significant work to satisfy the reinstatement conditions,” Coe said. “RUSAF should not be reinstated to membership of the IAAF at this stage. The task force will report at the next council meeting.”

The next meeting will be held on an unspecified date in May, three months before the Olympics.

“I think you should conclude that these decisions will be taken at that point,” Coe said, adding that Ethiopia, Morocco, Kenya, Ukraine and Belarus are in “critical care” and also must seriously improve their anti-doping programs.

Mikhail Butov, the secretary general of Russia’s track federation who serves on the IAAF council, accepted the decision and said Russia still has time to fulfil the conditions.

“They reckoned that we need to take yet more steps to satisfy all the demands,” he told Russian news agency Tass. “There is still a lot of time to resolve the issues with the IAAF and the IOC. I think we will have enough strength for that. There are things to work on and there’s a path to achieving our goal. We will work.”

The IAAF suspended Russia in November after an independent report by a World Anti-Doping Agency panel detailed systematic corruption and doping cover-ups in the country, then laid down a series of criteria for the Russians to meet before they can be eligible for readmission.

Rune Andersen, head of the IAAF task force on Russia, backed Coe’s assessment that Russia still has a long way to go.

“One criteria which is very, very important, is changing the culture of doping in Russia,” he said. “It’s a first job that needs to be done.”

The work still to be done centers around “interviewing athletes and coaches named in the WADA independent commission report and athletes and coaches who have had anti-doping rule violations recorded against them,” Andersen said.

He added that there have been “delays in getting effective in and out of competition drug testing up and running” following the suspension of Russia’s national anti-doping agency and drug-testing laboratory.

Of Russia’s track and field medalists at the 2012 London Olympics, eight have since either served doping bans or are provisionally suspended.

WADA’s initial report was made following allegations made in a documentary by German broadcaster ARD.

The program featured a Russian whistleblower, 800-meter runner Yulia Stepanova, who helped expose the doping scandal. She is hoping to be allowed to compete at the Olympics, though not representing Russia. Stepanova and her husband, a former anti-doping official, left Russia in 2014 after providing undercover footage of apparent doping violations for ARD’s documentary.

“The council will also ask the taskforce to consider the eligibility of Yulia Stepanova to compete in international competition,” Coe said. “I wrote a letter to both of them saying that I was very grateful for the help and support they had given the task force and that, at the appropriate time, I would be speaking to them.”

ARD aired another documentary Sunday, in which Russian coach Vladimir Mokhnev was accused of continuing to train athletes while he serves an IAAF suspension. The program alleged another coach offered banned substances for sale and that the acting head of the Russian anti-doping agency had allowed an unidentified athlete to reschedule a supposedly no-notice drug test.

Andersen said “we will be pursuing this with the Russian authorities.”

Russia is not the only country under serious pressure.

“Ethiopia and Morocco (both) need to implement as a matter of urgency a robust and adequate national testing program, both in and out of competition,” Coe said. “Kenya, Ukraine and Belarus have been put on an IAAF monitoring list for 2016 to ensure their anti-doping programs are significantly strengthened and their journey to compliance completed by the end of this year.”

Coe said “serious sanctions” would happen only “if they don’t comply with council requirements.”

More than 40 Kenyan track athletes have failed drug tests since 2012, and four senior track officials have been suspended by the IAAF for “potential subversion of the anti-doping control process in Kenya.”

Three Ethiopian runners have been suspended on suspicion of doping amid a string of positive tests among the country’s athletes. The Ethiopian Anti-Doping Agency said at least nine athletes were under suspicion.

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