IOC President Thomas Bach said Saturday he is confident Russia will enact the necessary anti-doping reforms in time for its track and field athletes to be cleared to compete in next year’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Bach gave his backing to Russian Olympic Committee head Alexander Zhukov, who has been tasked with overseeing reforms to Russia’s athletics federation, anti-doping agency and national drug-testing lab, all of which were implicated in a sharply critical World Anti-Doping Agency independent commission report Monday.
The IOC announced the agreement with Zhukov a day after Russia was provisionally suspended from international competition, including the Olympics, by the International Association of Athletics Federations.
“We are confident that the initiatives being proposed by the ROC, with the responsible international organizations, WADA and the IAAF, will ensure compliance as soon as possible in order to provide participation of the clean Russian athletes at the Olympic Games,” Bach said in a statement.
The Russian Olympic body “will coordinate all efforts in Russia to address the issues mentioned” in the WADA report, the IOC said, adding that all athletes, coaches and officials who are accused of involvement in doping will be punished.
“All doped athletes will be sanctioned. … All clean athletes will be protected,” the statement said.
Bach and Zhukov met Thursday at IOC headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland. Zhukov is also a senior Russian political figure and ally of President Vladimir Putin.
“The Russian Olympic Committee is determined that the clean athletes should compete in the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro,” Zhukov said in the IOC statement. “Anyone found guilty of using illegal drugs or anyone who facilitated or was complicit in their use must be punished.”
Monday’s report by the WADA panel accused the Russian federation’s coaches and officials of operating a vast doping program with state backing, while the Russian anti-doping agency, known as Rusada, and the national lab were alleged to have covered up failed drug tests by Russian athletes.
A crucial meeting is scheduled Sunday of the Russian athletics federation leadership to discuss the fallout of Russia’s exclusion from competition. It will take place at the Sports Ministry and will be attended by Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko in attendance, federation spokeswoman Alla Glushchenko told The Associated Press.
Mutko has spoken of his readiness to make personnel changes to ensure Russia can return to competition for the Olympics. To “fire everyone” would be an acceptable price to pay, he told reporters Friday.
Also Saturday, the head of the federation said he could appeal the ban to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
The track federation’s acting president, Vadim Zelichenok, said Russia is focused on finding “a rational compromise” to have the ban lifted but could appeal to CAS if the IAAF “tells us clearly that it doesn’t accept any of our arguments.”
He added that lengthy court proceedings might actually reduce Russia’s hopes of having its ban lifted in time for the Rio Olympics, which are just nine months away.
Zelichenok also told Russian media he had considered resigning, but suggested it would not be of use since any successor would not necessarily be better. Under federation rules, the successor would be chosen from among the six vice-presidents rather than being an outsider with no links to the doping scandal.
The European track and field association also confirmed Russia was banned from its competitions. European Athletics said in a statement that it would formally notify Russia of the suspension Saturday. The first competition Russia would miss is the European cross country championships in France next month.