The Russian athletics team may be banned from its second Olympics after the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) recommended imposing severe sanctions on the Russian Athletics Federation (RUSAF).
The AIU Board was not satisfied with explanations provided by RUSAF over alleged manipulation and document falsification in connection with the doping case of silver high-jumper Daniil Lysenko.
Having assessed RUSAF’s explanation, the AIU recommended maintaining the suspension of the Authorised Neutral Athlete (ANA) process, meaning that Russia’s athletes would not be able to take part in international events even under a neutral status.
World Athletics will be reviewing the serious charges brought by the AIU against RusAF for breach of the World Athletics Anti-Doping Rules.
The AIU views that RusAF had failed to rebut the case that it set out against the latter in the charge letter, which was supported by clear and compelling evidence. The AIU said that instead of admitting the charges and expressing contrition, RusAF had instead gone to great lengths to deny any involvement in the matter, blame others and attack the process.
The AIU noted that the approach was deeply concerning for the AIU Board as it seemed to indicate that the current leadership of the Federation was merely a continuation of the former. In other words, there has been no change in attitude, no acknowledgement of the responsibilities of a World Athletics Member Federation and no commitment to change.
The AIU recommended that the charges be referred to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) to resolve, and (if the CAS upholds the charges) that the Council ‘consider imposing the severest possible consequences, including considering the expulsion of RusAF from the membership of World Athletics’.
The AIU also recommended that given the seriousness of the charges against RusAF, the strength of the prima facie case, and ongoing concerns about the suitability of the current RusAF management to oversee the sport of athletics in Russia with integrity, that the Authorised Neutral Athlete process should remain suspended until the charges are finally determined’.
Under the WADA Rules, the charges against the individuals go to the Disciplinary Tribunal to resolve. In the case of a Member Federation, the process is different. Once RusAF has responded to the charges against it, the AIU refers those charges to Council, along with any recommendation that the AIU decides to make about the way forward, for Council to make a decision.
If RusAF continues to deny the charges, under Article 84.1(b) of the Constitution it is for CAS to resolve the dispute. If CAS upholds the charges, the matter would come back to Council to consider what sanctions to impose, under Article 16 of the Anti-Doping Rules. At that point, Council would also consider whether to start the process for Congress to consider expulsion of RusAF in accordance with Article 14 of the Constitution.
However, the Constitution also provides an option (under Article 84.1(a)) for reasonable steps to be taken to try to resolve the dispute before resorting to CAS.
Therefore, as a first step, World Athletics will be sending a letter to the acting RusAF President and to the new Russian Minister for Sport.
World Athletics wants to state that is RusAF maintained their current blanket denials approach, the world body would put all necessary resource into presenting the charges to the CAS. The Council will not consider any applications for authorised neutral athlete status in the meantime.
World Athletics, in their statement said that if RusAF and its former officials admited the charges, at Council’s meeting next month it would decide, with the benefit of recommendations from the joint committee of Taskforce and DRB members, on a new process for Russian athletes to apply for authorised neutral athlete status.
The Council would also consider what sanctions should be imposed for RusAF’s breach of the Anti-Doping Rules. It would not include, any proposal to expel RusAF from membership. It will also decide on a new process for the reinstatement of RusAF, which may include new elements to bring about the necessary changes.