Paris - Athletics giant Russia was
provisionally suspended from track and field on Friday over accusations of
"state-sponsored" doping as the IAAF scrambled to salvage the sport's
credibility just nine months out from the Rio Olympics.
"Today we have been dealing with the
failure of ARAF (All-Russia Athletic Federation) and made the decision to
provisionally suspend them, the toughest sanction we can apply at this
time," IAAF president Sebastian Coe said.
"But we discussed and agreed that the
whole system has failed the athletes, not just in Russia, but around the world.
"This has been a shameful wake-up call
and we are clear that cheating at any level will not be tolerated."
Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said
the ban was predictable.
"I don't think they could have taken
any other decision with the sword of Damocles that they had over their heads,
with the pressure exerted on the commission," Mutko told the Russian TASS
Russian Mikhail Butov, an IAAF council
member and ARAF secretary general, presented his country's position before 24
of the 27-strong IAAF Council chaired by Coe.
But the council returned a vote of 22 for
and 1 against, the simple majority confirming a suspension for Russia, who were
accused of widespread doping by an independent commission set up by the World
Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) in a report which has shaken track and field, one of
the Olympic Games' flagship sports.
In that report, commission head Dick Pound,
a former president of WADA, called for Russia to be suspended for 2016 "so
that they can take the remedial work in time to make sure that Russian athletes
can compete under a new framework".
The IAAF took his words to heart, saying
the consequences of the provisional suspension were that "athletes and
athlete support personnel from Russia may not compete in international
competitions including World Athletic Series competitions and the Olympic
It also means Russia "will not be
entitled to host the 2016 World Race Walking Cup (Cheboksary) and 2016 World
Junior Championships (Kazan)".
The IAAF added: "To regain membership
to the IAAF the new federation would have to fulfil a list of criteria.
"An inspection team led by Independent
Chair Rune Andersen, an independent international anti-doping expert
(Norwegian), and three members of the IAAF Council, who will be appointed in
the next few days."
WADA welcomed the suspension, according to
spokesman Ben Nichols.
"The decision is positive news for
clean athletes worldwide," Nichols said.
The 335-page WADA report blasted Russian
officials for blackmailing athletes to cover up positive tests as well as
destroying test samples.
Lamine Diack, whom Coe succeeded as IAAF
president in August, has also been charged with corruption by French
investigators amid allegations he took bribes to cover up doping cases,
principally in Russia.
Russian Sports Minister Mutko had been at
pains before the council meeting to stress that Moscow was ready to reform or
"create a new anti-doping organisation" were the IAAF or WADA to
Mutko, who initially ruled out any Olympic
boycott in the event of a ban, also broached the idea of appointing a
"foreign specialist" as head of the doping laboratory, a move towards
openness never before seen in Russian sport.
"We are ready to cooperate (with the
IAAF) so that our athletics is brought up to the norms demanded of us.
"But let's do this together. We're
ready to do whatever it takes."
The fallout from the WADA report's damning
conclusions reached as far up as Russian President Vladimir Putin, who ordered
officials to launch their own internal investigation and cooperate with
international anti-doping authorities.
"We must do everything in Russia to
rid ourselves of this problem," said Putin, an avid sportsman and judo
black belt who led Russia's bid to host last year's Winter Olympics and the
2018 football World Cup.
However, he added: "This problem does
not exist only in Russia, but if our foreign colleagues have questions, we must
Calls by Russia's star pole vaulter Yelena
Isinbayeva and Ukraine's former pole vault legend Sergey Bubka, the IAAF
vice-president, not to enforce collective punishment against all Russian
athletes also fell on deaf ears.
"The situation around the Russian
athletics team is very sad. But I'd like to issue a pressing request: don't
reduce all our athletes to the same level," said Isinbayeva, who has set
28 world records in women's pole vault during her career.
"It's unfair to deprive innocent
athletes, who are not party to this case, the right to compete at the Olympics
Games at Rio de Janeiro."
But former Namibian sprinter Frankie
Fredericks, speaking on behalf of the IAAF Athletes Commission, said the
commission was "angry at the damage being caused to the reputation and
credibility of athletics and are united alongside our president to not shy away
from the major challenges that face our sport".
"The athletes will work together to
continue the process of cleaning up athletics to ensure those athletes training
and competing cleanly are not tainted by the minority.
"We send a clear message to clean
athletes in a dirty system to report any doping or cheating that they see or
hear about. We are 100 percent in support of president Coe and believe that he
is the leader that our sport needs to instigate the necessary actions swiftly