Russia should be banned from competing in athletics. That’s the stark conclusion of a report from a commission set up by the World Anti-Doping Agency to look into allegations of corruption in Russian sport. The investigation claimed that Russia is in effect running a state-sponsored doping program.
From the peaceful surroundings of Geneva, the World Anti-Doping Agency set off a new earthquake to shake the foundations of global sport -- accusations that Russia has for years been conducting a state-supported doping program in athletics. Dick Pound is head of the commission looking into the allegations.
“We found cover-ups, we found destruction of samples in the laboratories, we found payments of money in order to conceal the results of doping tests among others," said Pound.
Pound said the Russian state security service, the FSB, was present at anti-doping laboratories – part of a wider pattern of ‘direct intimidation and interference by the Russian state.’
The commission called on Russia to be banned from athletics competition.
“The outcome may be that there are no Russian track and field athletes in Rio [Olympics 2016]. I hope that they recognize that it's time to change and make those changes," said Pound.
Moscow’s Minister for Sport strongly denied the allegations.
Russia finished second in the London 2012 Olympics medal table, behind the United States. Pound said the event had been ‘sabotaged’ by the ‘laissez-faire’ attitude taken by the International Association of Athletics Federations or IAAF. The newly-elected head of that body, Sebastian Coe, vowed Monday to clean up the sport – but admitted it would be a long road.
“I've asked my council to convene on Friday this week. We will review what they have said and then we will look at the next steps which could include sanctions," said Coe.
The IAAF council has 27 members – most of them famous names – who now hold Russia’s fate in their hands, says sports historian Philip Barker.
“These people are big figures in athletics. And they have been charged with looking at what they’re going to do, what their response will be," said Barker.
Barker added that when Coe was asked ‘would he ban Russia,’ the IAAF head said ‘never say never.’