MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia will ask the world athletics body to allow its athletes to compete in upcoming events under a different banner than the Russian flag to circumvent a ban on their athletics federation, Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said on Sunday.
The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) suspended the Russian Athletics Federation (ARAF) on Friday following allegations of widespread and state-sponsored doping.
Russia has since announced a three-month road map to clean up its act, with the nation's Olympic Committee leading efforts to ensure honest athletes can compete at the 2016 Olympics.
Mutko said the Sports Ministry would ask the Russian Olympics Committee (ROC) to apply to the IAAF and the International Olympics Committee (IOC) to request that Russian athletes compete under an ROC flag.
"I hope the IAAF will consider our application that over the next three months while the membership of the Russian Athletics Federation is suspended, our athletes could compete in international contests under the flag of the ROC, our national Olympic Committee," he told a news conference.
Some Russian athletes have already suggested they could compete at the 2016 Olympics as independents under the Olympic flag.
The IOC has previously allow independents to compete at Olympic Games in certain cases, such as when an athlete's home country is in transition or subject to sanctions.
Mutko spoke after attending an extraordinary meeting of the board of the Russian Athletics Federation.
ARAF's acting head Vadim Zelichenok told the news conference he hoped Russia would be restored in the IAAF within three months.
Meanwhile, a new committee would work closely with the IAAF to address the World Anti-Doping Agency's (WADA) allegations that led to the ban, he said.
Zelichenok also said ARAF's board would hold early elections on Jan. 16 for a new president and vice presidents, who would serve until the end of the 2016 Olympic Games.
Zelichenok said earlier on Sunday that the IAAF was punishing Russia to divert attention from its own failings.
"We understand that the publication of the second part of the WADA report will deal a serious blow to the IAAF. This partially explains such a tough decision with regard to Russia's Athletics Federation," Zelichenok was quoted as saying by state-run news agency R-Sport agency.
Former IAAF president, Lamine Diack, is being investigated by French police over allegations he received bribes to cover up positive doping tests of Russian athletes.
The commission has so far withheld other aspects of the IAAF's actions regarding Russia as they form part of an investigation by Interpol into international corruption involving officials and athletes.
(Reporting by Maria Kiselyova; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)