Russian Olympic committee vows to reform athletics for Rio 2016 Olympics

A man walks in front of the Russian Olympic Committee headquarters building © Sergei Karpukhin
The Russian Olympic Committee has promised to carry out a clean-up program of Russian athletics to satisfy demands from the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and let clean Russian track and field athletes participate at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

“The Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) is ready to take the lead in reforming the Russian Athletics Federation and to bring the federation in line with the demands of the IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federations) and anti-doping legislation. It should be done in a proper manner as soon as possible,” the ROC President Alexander Zhukov said on Saturday as cited by the ROC website.

He also held a meeting with the President of the International Olympic Committee Thomas Bach. They reached an agreement that Russia will reform the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA), an anti-doping lab in Moscow and the All-Russian Athletics Federation (ARAF) so that they meet the regulations of the WADA code.

The Russian authorities are trying to make sure that the country’s track and field team’s suspension will be lifted in time to be able to compete at the 2016 Olympics in Rio.

“The Russian Olympic Committee is determined that the clean athletes should compete in the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro,” Zhukov said as cited by IOC website.

“Anyone found guilty of using illegal drugs or anyone who facilitated or was complicit in their use must be punished,” he added.

President Bach welcomed the Russian desire to protect “clean” athletes and the readiness of the ROC to take a leading role in the reform process.

“I welcome the fact that the ROC expressed its firm commitment to protect the clean athletes, and to sanction all the doped athletes and officials,” President Bach said.

“I appreciated very much the openness of the discussion and welcomed the fact that the ROC will play the leading role. We are confident that the initiatives being proposed by the ROC, with the responsible international organizations, 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,” he added.

The scandal erupted after WADA published a report saying Russian athletes were systematically guilty of resorting to doping. WADA recommended suspending the Russian team from participating in all international competitions including the 2016 Olympic Games. It also insisted on life-long bans for a number of Russian athletes and coaches.

On Friday, the IAAF council voted 22-1 in favor of suspending Russia from all international competitions.

“It is a predictable and understandable decision. We need to understand what they want and where they see the threats,” Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko told R-Sport in wake of the IAAF decision.

“We will develop a joint road map and try to do it quickly. I think we can do all the work in two to three months,” he added.

At the same time the minister criticized the decision of the IAAF.

“Every isolation leads to destruction, not to development. A competitive environment will deteriorate because of Russian disqualifications,” Mutko told RT.

From minister’s point of view, doping is not just a problem for Russian sport, but is a global issue.

“The whole world of athletics needs to be reformed,” Mutko said.

“We are ready to become a locomotive for cleaning up sports – despite the damage done to Russia’s image in the sport,” he added.