Russia given 5 more months to fix 'deficient' doping plan

AP , Saturday 26 Sep 2020

Russia has been given five more months to fix a ''seriously deficient'' plan to combat doping in track and field, World Athletics said Saturday.

Track's world governing body said Russia's deadline was moved from Sept. 30 to March 1. A World Athletics task force reported the Russian track federation, known as RusAF, had so few experienced staff that it couldn't compose an adequate road map for lifting a doping suspension which has been in place nearly five years.

''Although the draft plan was better than what has come before (in particular, in acknowledging the doping culture in Russian athletics, and in identifying some of the systemic issues that have to be addressed to change that culture), it is nevertheless seriously deficient and does not meet most of the requirements,'' the task force said in a statement.

The task force ''could not possibly provide feedback that would facilitate turning this product into an acceptable plan by the end of September unless we took on the job of rewriting it ourselves, when our job is supposed to be only the provision of advice and feedback on what they come up with based on their own analysis of the situation.''

World Athletics had previously said RusAF could be expelled from membership if it didn't compose an anti-doping plan. RusAF handed in a draft plan last month and was meant to modify it by Sept. 30 to include changes required by World Athletics. The task force said a ''void'' of experience in senior management hampered the work.

The then-president Dmitry Shlyakhtin was among five RusAF employees or board members who were suspended last year over allegations of providing forged documents to give an athlete an alibi for being unavailable for doping testing. Long-running financial problems have made it hard for RusAF to attract and retain staff.

RusAF is due to elect a new president in November. Businessman Yevgeny Yurchenko took over in February but resigned in July after the federation missed a deadline to pay a fine to World Athletics. Yurchenko is now back as acting president after the Russian Sports Ministry provided money to pay the fine.

The five-month delay won't stop Russians competing in any major competitions. The Diamond League season has finished for 2020 and the world indoor championships - rescheduled due to the coronavirus pandemic - start on March 19.

RusAF general secretary Andrei Konokotin said the plan had been ''generally well received'' by World Athletics despite the criticism from the task force.

World Athletics has allowed some Russians to compete internationally as neutral athletes if they pass vetting of their drug-testing history. However, it suspended that program earlier this year.

''We are counting on a decision being taken at the WA council meeting in December to resume the process of awarding our athletes neutral status, and we are doing everything we can for this,'' Konokotin added in a statement on the RusAF website.

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