As Rio approaches, no quick decision expected on Russia

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 11, 2016 6:30 AM

By Mitch Phillips

MONACO (Reuters) - Russian participation in the Rio Olympics athletics is likely to remain in doubt on Friday, with a task force investigating the sporting superpower's anti-doping operation expected to make no firm recommendation when it reports to the IAAF Council.

With time running short, Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko also said he did not expect any "revolutionary news" from the meeting of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) council.

Norwegian Rune Andersen, a former director of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and leader of the five-person task force reviewing Russian reform efforts after its suspension from global competition in November, will address the Council, which administers the affairs of the IAAF.

Sources close to the situation have said that Andersen is not expected to make any sort of recommendation on whether to maintain the ban or take steps to end it.

Last week a documentary on German TV channel ARD said Russia had made little progress on reform, that coaches banned for doping were still operating in the country and officials newly-installed as part of the clean-up were tipping off athletes ahead of drugs tests.

Dick Pound, co-author of the WADA commission's report that led to Russia's ban, said on Wednesday he felt the country was not showing enough urgency to make the necessary changes

The Rio athletics program begins on Aug. 12 but registration must be completed about a month before that which would be too late for the vast majority of Russian athletes who would still need to record Olympic-standard qualifying times.

That means the ban would need to be lifted weeks before that deadline, some time in June or even late May.

The International Olympic Committee would be unhappy to see the Games go ahead without Russia, which vies with the United States to be the sport's number one nation but it is looking increasingly likely that that will be the case.

One Russian athlete could be on duty, however, if the IAAF decides on Friday to follow a WADA request to recommend Yulia Stepanova be allowed to compete under an IOC flag.

Stepanova, an 800-metres runner formerly banned for doping, became the chief whistle-blower to expose Russia's doping regime and is currently living in Canada after being branded a "traitor" by many in her own country.

(Editing by:)