IOC offers Rio lifeline to Russian track and field athletes

Thomas Bach, pictured earlier this year, has offered a limited number of Russian athletes to compete under their flag at the Rio Games later this year Photograph:( Getty )

Reuters Lausanne Jun 22, 2016, 10.23 AM (IST)
World athletics federation IAAF has come closer to destroying sport in Russia than helping it develop by suspending the country's track and field team over doping offences, the Russian sport minister said.

First imposed in November, the IAAF ban was extended on Friday and supported by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Saturday.

"I have written an open letter to (the IAAF)... If you are an organisation whose aim is to develop athletics then you have done everything to destroy it," Vitaly Mutko told Reuters in an interview.

Russian track and field athletes had not participated in international competitions in January.

"I, on behalf of the state, cannot finance the country's national team. That means all this is falling apart. Next, I cannot finance the training centre, all these are closing down. The young athletes do not have any motivation," Mutko said.

Individual Russian track and field athletes assessed as clean will be able to compete for their country in Brazil, IOC President Thomas Bach said on Tuesday, diluting the IAAF's ban.

International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach also said all competitors from both Russia and Kenya would, given their countries' recent history of doping, have to be screened individually before being allowed to participate in the Games.

He did not elaborate on what the evaluation would include.

The Russian track and field team remains suspended from Rio de Janeiro after the IOC supported the ban, for systemic doping, which world athletics federation IAAF had extended on Friday.

But Bach, speaking at the end of a summit on doping, offered a limited number of Russian athletes the chance to race under their flag.

In a decision welcomed by the sports ministry in Moscow, he said those cleared by the IAAF or the Court of Arbitration for Sport as clean and eligible would be able to compete in Brazil.

The unsatisfactory record of anti-doping bodies in Russia, as well as Kenya, had put "very serious doubts on the presumption of innocence" of their athletes, Bach said.

But they had the right of appeal and "if there are (Russian) athletes qualified then they will compete as members of the Russian Olympic Committee team," he told reporters.

The IAAF had said on Friday that any Russian athlete would have to compete under a neutral flag, a recommendation it reiterated on Tuesday following Bach's comments.

"This decision has been unequivocally supported across sport and the IOC Summit today unanimously agreed to fully respect the IAAF decision," the federation said in a statement.

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