Leadership

Global Track Organization: Russia Shouldn’t Compete at Olympics

On Friday, the International Association of Athletics Federations voted to uphold a competition ban on Russian athletes, which would keep the country's track and field athletes out of the Olympics. The vote, part of an ongoing saga, comes at a time when IAAF's leader is himself facing scrutiny.

One of the sports world’s most prominent athletic organizations just made a decision that could keep a global superpower from lacing up at the Rio Olympics in August.

On Friday, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), the global governing body for track and field, voted to accept recommendations that Russian athletes continue to be banned from international competition. The ban arose from a doping scandal that had the fingerprints of state sponsorship all over it.

In a news release, IAAF said that it believes the Russian Athletics Federation (RusAF) has not met requirements to implement stronger measures against doping by athletes. As a result, the governing body has refused to reinstate the group as an IAAF member.

Sebastian Coe, president of IAAF, emphasized that the decision was meant to highlight that the association was taking doping seriously.

“The council was unanimous in accepting the recommendations and sending a very clear signal to athletes and the public about our intention to reform our sport,” he said in a statement.

The Russian government’s best hope for reversal of IAAF’s decision is the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which is expected to discuss the issue Tuesday, according to The New York Times.

Russia’s ministry of sport said it hopes IOC members will “not only consider the impact that our athletes’ exclusion will have on their dreams and the people of Russia, but also that the Olympics themselves will be diminished by their absence.”

New Leader Faces Questions

Coe’s strong stance on the issue comes at a time when his leadership of IAAF is being questioned.

In the hours before the IAAF vote, the former Olympic athlete faced allegations that he was appointed to his leadership role with the help of consultant Papa Massata Diack, a former IAAF official that the BBC characterized as “corrupt.” Diack is the son of Coe’s predecessor, Lamine Diack, and is currently wanted on bribery charges.

Additionally, the program BBC Panorama suggested that Coe misled members of Britain’s Parliament about when he first learned of the Russian scandal.

In a news release, IAAF denied the allegations, and Coe emphasized that when he did hear corruption rumors, he quickly passed them on to the association’s ethics committee. Regarding Coe’s association with Diack, the group disputed the nature of the relationship between the two.

“The suggestion that Seb Coe was actively seeking Papa Massata Diack’s advice about his campaign is wrong. As with any campaign, lots of people offer advice—wanted or not, some helpful, some not. You try to be civil but wary,” the association said in a statement.

IAAF President Sebastian Coe (L) and Rune Andersen, head of the IAAF taskforce on Russia, shown at a press conference on Friday. (Leonhard Foeger/Reuters)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a senior editor for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. MORE

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