Russian athletics will reform in time for Rio Olympics, says bullish IOC chief Thomas Bach
IOC president confident of clean-up act a day after athletes are provisionally suspended
IOC president Thomas Bach said yesterday he was confident Russia would enact the necessary anti-doping reforms in time for its track and field athletes to be cleared to compete in next year's Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Bach gave his backing to Russian Olympic Committee head Alexander Zhukov, who has been tasked with overseeing reforms to Russia's athletics federation, anti-doping agency and national drug-testing lab, all of which were implicated in a sharply critical World Anti-Doping Agency independent commission report last Monday.
The IOC announced the agreement with Zhukov a day after Russia was provisionally suspended from all international competition, including the Olympics and world championships, by the International Association of Athletics Federations.
"We are confident that the initiatives being proposed by the ROC, with the responsible international organisations, Wada and the IAAF, will ensure compliance as soon as possible in order to provide participation of the clean Russian athletes at the Olympic Games," Bach said in an IOC statement.
The Russian Olympic body "will coordinate all efforts in Russia to address the issues mentioned" in the Wada report, the IOC said, adding that all athletes, coaches and officials who are accused of involvement in doping will be punished.
"All doped athletes will be sanctioned ... all clean athletes will be protected," Bach said.
Bach and Zhukov met at IOC headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland. Zhukov is also a senior Russian political figure and ally of President Vladimir Putin.
"The Russian Olympic Committee is determined that the clean athletes should compete in the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro," Zhukov said in the IOC statement. "Anyone found guilty of using illegal drugs or anyone who facilitated or was complicit in their use must be punished."
The report by the Wada panel accused the Russian federation's coaches and officials of operating a vast doping programme with state backing, while the Russian anti-doping agency, known as Rusada, and the national lab were alleged to have covered up failed drug tests by Russian athletes.
A crucial meeting is scheduled today of the Russian athletics federation leadership to discuss the fallout of Russia's exclusion from competition. It will take place at the Sports Ministry and will be attended by Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko.
Mutko has spoken of his readiness to make personnel changes to ensure Russia can return to competition for the Olympics. To "fire everyone" would be an acceptable price to pay, he said.
Meanwhile, the head of the federation said he could appeal over the ban to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
The track federation's acting president, Vadim Zelichenok, said Russia is focused on finding "a rational compromise" to have the ban lifted but could appeal to CAS if the IAAF "tells us clearly that it doesn't accept any of our arguments".
He said lengthy court proceedings might actually reduce Russia's hopes of having its ban lifted in time for the Rio Olympics, which are just nine months away.
Zelichenok said he had considered resigning, but suggested it would not be of much use since any successor would not necessarily be better.