Sunday November 8th, 2015

The World Anti-Doping Agency has recommended the IAAF suspend Russia from athletics competition in the wake of its findings regarding the country’s systematic cover-up of positive PED tests.

Former WADA president Dick Pound presented the findings at a press conference in Geneva, Switzerland.

Five Russian coaches and athletes were recommended for lifetime bans, along with WADA Moscow lab chief Grigory Rodchenko, who intentionally destroyed 1417 doping samples across several sports.​ The samples were destroyed in Dec. 2014, after WADA had requested to see them.

“The hope is Russia will seize the opportunity moving forward and take the lead in attacking a problem that has the potential to destroy sport,“ Pound said.

Pound called the findings "state-sponsored" doping and compared it to the “old Soviet Union system.”

Among the five suspended athletes are 2012 Olympic 800-meter bronze medalist Ekaterina Poistogova, 400-meter and 800-meter runner Anastasiya Bazdyreva, 2012 Olympic 800-meter champion Mariya Savinova, 1,500-meter runner Kristina Ugarova and 800-meter runner Tatjana Myazina.

The independent committee found that Russia's current sport minister Vitaly Mutko issued direct orders to “manipulate particular samples.” He has denied the report. Mutko remains on FIFA's 2018 World Cup organizing committee.

Vadim Zelichenok, acting President of the All-Russia Athletics Federation, says Wada's recommendation to ban Russia from the Olympics did not allow them a fair hearing.

“This contradicts the rules,” Zelichenok told the R-Sport news agency. “There is an IAAF Constitution. This issue should be considered at the IAAF Council in November. We must be given the opportunity to prove our innocence.”

Last week, former IAAF president Lamine Diack was arrested and placed under criminal investigation for allegedly accepting more than $1 million in bribes from Russian anti-doping officials to cover up positive doping tests. Diack was released on bail but ordered not to leave France.

His son Papa Massata Diack is also accused of accepting bribes to assist a Russian athlete avoid penalty for a positive test. Gabriel Dollé, the former head of anti-doping at the IAAF, Valentin Balakhnichev, the ex-president of the Russian Athletics Federation and Russian coach Alexey Melnikov also reportedly played a role in the corruption.

Findings on an investigation into the IAAF have not been released as the alleged wrong-doings go beyond the sport of track and field and tread into the criminal arena.

The IAAF released the following statement:

“In response to WADA's Independent Commission report issued today, the IAAF President, Sebastian Coe, has taken the urgent step of seeking approval from his fellow IAAF Council Members to consider sanctions against the Russian Athletics Federation (ARAF). These sanctions could include provisional and full suspension and the removal of future IAAF events. Commenting on the report, the IAAF President said: "The information in WADA's Independent Commissions Report is alarming. We need time to properly digest and understand the detailed findings included in the report. However, I have urged the Council to start the process of considering sanctions against ARAF. This step has not been taken lightly. Our athletes, partners and fans have my total assurance that where there are failures in our governance or our anti-doping programmes we will fix them. We will do whatever it takes to protect the clean athletes and rebuild trust in our sport. The IAAF will continue to offer the police authorities our full co-operation into their ongoing investigation.​”

The United States Anti-Doping Agency applauded the work of WADA's independent investigation and its findings.

"USADA applauds the work of the WADA Independent Commission, led by Mr. Pound, in exposing a Russian effort to takeover sport through unlawful means,” USADA CEO Travis T. Tygart said in a statement. “The evidence released today demonstrates a shocking level of corruption, and sends a clear message to Russia that they will not be allowed to cheat the world’s athletes and escape justice behind a wall of deception and lies. If Russia has created an organized scheme of state supported doping, then they have no business being allowed to compete on the world stage. The world’s athletes deserve better, and all who love clean sport must rise up and confront this threat. We will continue to fight on behalf of all clean athletes to ensure that clear and decisive action is taken to sweep out anyone who has been involved with this scheme.”

Russian Olympic medalists Yulia Zaripova (women's 3,000-meter steeplechase) and race-walkers Sergei Kirdyapkin, Olga Kaniskina and Valery Borchin have all tested positive and suspended for doping in the past year.​ Racewalking coach Viktor Chegin, who oversaw the training of several of the banned athletes, resigned in July amid allegations.

If the IOC strips Savinova and Poistogova of their Olympic medals from 2012, South Africa's Caster Semenya would be upgraded from silver to gold, Kenya's Pamela Jelimo would move from fourth place to second place for silver and Alysia Montano of the United States would move from fifth place to third place and receive a bronze medal.

Red flags were raised after a Dec. 2014 documentary by German television channel ARD alleged that three-time Chicago Marathon winner and Olympian Liliya Shobukhova paid the Russian Athletics Federation $550,000 to cover up a positive doping case. The IAAF confirmed the allegations and annulled all results dating back to Oct. 2009, which stripped her of her London and Chicago Marathon victories. She was banned through March 2016, but had her suspension shortened after cooperating with investigators. She is now eligible to compete at the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro and has returned to competition.

Diack, 82, concluded his 16-year tenure as president after the IAAF World Championships in Beijing in August. Olympic gold medalist Seb Coe succeeded Diack at president. Over the weekend, Coe did not rule out the possibility of banning Russia from international competition due to its doping problem.

- Christopher Chavez

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