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23 Mar, 2023 19:38

World Athletics lifts Russia doping ban

However, Russian athletes will continue to be excluded from events due to the military situation in Ukraine
World Athletics lifts Russia doping ban

World Athletics voted on Thursday to end its eight-year ban on the Russian Athletics Federation (RAF) after it was disqualified amid claims of state-sponsored doping, accusations which Moscow has consistently denied.

However, RAF athletes – as well as their Belarusian counterparts – remain suspended from international competition due to a separate and ongoing suspension imposed by World Athletics following the launch of military action in Ukraine.

The ban was first imposed in 2015 amid allegations of a sophisticated doping campaign within Russian athletics, as well as related cover-ups, though figures within Russian sport denounced the suspension as being politically motivated.

The World Athletics Council ended the ban on Thursday after Rune Anderson, who leads its Russia Task Force, praised what he saw as positive steps taken by the RAF to implement a “new culture of good governance and zero tolerance for doping throughout the organization.”

Some Russian athletes had been permitted to compete under a neutral flag in recent years by World Athletics, provided they were never linked to doping. But even these athletes will remain suspended after the World Athletics Council voted to uphold a ban on Russian and Belarusian competitors which was imposed last year.

World Athletics President Lord Sebastian Coe told a press conference on Thursday that, “the World Athletics Council approved to continue to exclude Russian and Belarus athletes from all World Series events for the foreseeable future due to the invasion and ongoing war in Ukraine.” 

The Russian Athletics Federation has not yet responded to the outcome of the vote.

The move comes as the International Olympic Committee (IOC) revealed recently that it was exploring options to reinstate Russia and Belarus to Olympic competition. Its president, Thomas Bach, said at a speaking engagement in Germany on Thursday that he didn’t believe it was the role of international sporting federations to act as a “political referee.” 

While some Olympic avenues may subsequently open for Russian and Belarusian sportsmen and women, Thursday’s vote appears to signal that they will be unable to feature in athletics events at the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.

Separately, World Athletics also voted on Thursday to enforce a ban on transgender male-to-female athletes from elite female events, which it said constituted “decisive action to protect the female category in our sport.”