Russia’s doping suspension from track and field was extended into a seventh year on Wednesday, with cautious praise for reformers and a warning that not everyone supports their changes.
World Athletics voted to maintain the suspension, which was first imposed in November 2015, at its congress. The sport’s governing body said 126 national federations voted for the extension, with 18 against and 34 not voting.
The vote followed a presentation from the head of World Athletics’ task force supervising Russia’s reforms, Rune Andersen. He wrote in a report that there is a “new culture” at the troubled Russian track and field federation, known as RusAF.
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The federation is under new management after former president Dmitry Shlyakhtin and four other officials were banned for obstructing an anti-doping investigation into a top athlete by presenting fake medical documents. Russia was hoping to have the ban lifted in 2019 before that case pushed the country back to the brink of being expelled from World Athletics altogether.
“RusAF has made steady progress towards meeting the conditions set for its reinstatement to membership of World Athletics,” Andersen wrote in his report. “The Taskforce does feel that these changes are reflective of a new culture within RusAF, one that is generally looking to reject the doping practices of the past and to commit to competing clean moving forward.”
However, some figures in Russian track and field are resistant to change, he warned.
“There are still people in Russian athletics who have not embraced this new culture, and there is still much work for RusAF to do to ensure that they do not exercise influence, and instead it is the new generation of athletes and coaches that push Russian athletics forward,” Andersen wrote.
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Andersen added that Russian officials had agreed there would be extra ongoing checks after the suspension is eventually lifted, and that RusAF was paying for more doping tests in track and field because of “concern” about the Russian anti-doping agency, which remains under a separate suspension from the World Anti-Doping Agency.
World Athletics has allowed a limited number of Russians to compete internationally after a panel examines their history of drug testing. Russia was allowed to send a maximum 10 track and field athletes to compete at the Tokyo Olympics. Mariya Lasitskene won the women’s high jump and Anzhelika Sidorova took silver in the pole vault.