Russia running out of time for Rio Games, says Pound

Yuliya Rusanova (now Yuliya Stepanova) lifted the lid on the widespread doping programme in Russian athletics.

Yuliya Rusanova (now Yuliya Stepanova) lifted the lid on the widespread doping programme in Russian athletics.

Athletics superpower Russia is running out of time to eradicate doping and may not be able to send a track and field team to this year’s Rio Olympics, Dick Pound, chair of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) independent commission, said yesterday.

“There seems to be some evidence that they’re just changing deck chairs on the Titanic,” he told an anti-doping conference.

Russian athletes were banned from international competition after a report by Pound’s commission revealing widespread doping and graft with involvement of Russian and international athletics officials. Russian athletics authorities were ordered to carry out sweeping reforms to allow a lifting of the ban.

“My guess is Russia may not make it back for Rio. The IAAF and WADA are not going to risk their reputations by rolling over and playing dead,” Pound said referring to the sport’s world governing International Association of Athletics Federations.

Last week a German TV documentary contained fresh allegations of malpractice in Russia’s anti-doping system.

Among the claims in Sunday’s ARD programme were that Russian coaches suspended in the worst corruption and doping scandal to hit the sport were still working in athletics, while others continued to provide banned substances to athletes.

“We said to them at the time if you stop complaining about the report you have a chance. Whether their progress is sufficient enough? I don’t think they are devoting all their time and energy into getting where they ought to be.”

The ARD reports in recent months on doping in Russian sport were based on information provided by whistleblowers Vitaly Stepanov, who formerly worked for Russia’s anti-doping agency, and his wife Yuliya, an 800 metres runner banned for doping.

WADA chairman Craig Reedie, who also addressed delegates, said he had appealed to the IAAF and the International Olympic Committee to allow Yuliya to compete at the Rio Olympics.

Reedie said that contrary to media reports, WADA had also offered financial support and relocation to the Stepanovs who currently live in an undisclosed location outside Russia.

“For the record, I, WADA and the anti-doping community are very grateful,” Reedie said.

Branded as traitors at home, Vitaly, Yuliya and their young son have been in hiding since the documentary aired in December 2014. They have changed residences nine times and are living under assumed names.

Russia, second to the United States in the sport’s pecking order, will be allowed to return to competition, including August’s Rio Olympics, when it proves to WADA and the IAAF that it has met a series of conditions regarding its anti-doping operation.

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