Moscow - Russia is making efforts to reform after its damaging
doping scandal, according to the head of the IAAF taskforce set up to determine
whether the country's ban from global track and field should be lifted.
"The Russians have recognized that there is an issue, a
problem, and they are trying to fix it," Norwegian anti-doping expert Rune
Andersen told The Associated Press on Tuesday.
Russia was suspended by the IAAF — track and field's world
governing body — from international competition, including the Olympics, in
November after a report by a World Anti-Doping Agency panel detailed a
state-sponsored doping program.
Andersen, who heads the five-person IAAF taskforce, held meetings
Monday and Tuesday in Moscow with Russian government and sports officials.
"There is an open and frank discussion," he said.
"There are no obstructions to what we're trying to do. Everyone wants to
find solutions to the problems that Russian athletics has had today."
Andersen added that "several" more meetings are planned
with "our Russian friends" before the taskforce reports back to the
International Association of Athletics Federations in March.
In order for Russia to be readmitted in time for this year's
Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, the IAAF has said the country must investigate
doping cases, remove any officials or coaches who were involved in drug use or
cover-ups and establish "a strong anti-doping culture."
The Russian athletics federation is due to elect a new president
Saturday as part of its own reform program. The frontrunner is longtime general
secretary Mikhail Butov, who also sits on the IAAF's ruling council.
"We have talked about the structure, that's part of the
verification criteria, and of course that will be part of the discussion when
we move on to this, but the new leadership of ARAF will be part of our
discussion partners in the future," Andersen told the AP.
He would not comment on whether Butov was a suitable candidate
despite having held a senior role at a time when many of the most serious
accusations against the federation were made.
The elections end an 11-month tenure by acting president Vadim
Zelichenok, who replaced longtime federation chief Valentin Balakhnichev last
year. Balakhnichev was banned for life by the IAAF last week following allegations
of involvement in a plot to extort money from athletes seeking to avoid doping
Andersen declined to say whether any new cases of malpractice
beyond those revealed in the WADA commission's report had been brought to light
in the course of the talks with the Russian officials.
He also refused to be drawn on whether the taskforce would visit
the central Russian city of Saransk, home to a training centre for race-walkers
which has seen over 30 positive drug tests in recent years among its athletes,
including several Olympic medallists.
The Russian athletics federation has been ordered to cease working
with the centre, where staff were accused in the WADA report of obstructing