The Russian Athletics Federation has been hit with an unprecedented $10m fine for repeatedly breaching anti-doping rules. World Athletics has also ruled that only 10 Russian athletes can compete at the Tokyo Olympics as Authorised Neutral Athletes if the event goes ahead.
The decision came after several Russian Athletics officials were banned for fabricating documents purporting to show that the 2018 world indoor high jump champion Danil Lysenko was too ill to provide his whereabouts for drug testing – which came from fake doctors operating from a bogus clinic based in Moscow.
The World Athletics president Sebastian Coe said he hoped the sanctions would finally provoke real change in the “tainted” Russian athletic system, which has repeatedly failed to acknowledge any wrongdoing despite a series of drug scandals in recent years. However he held out an olive branch by reinstating the process that allows some Russians to compete at the Olympics as neutral athletes – although that figure will be capped at just 10.
“The package of sanctions approved reflects the seriousness of RusAF’s wrongdoing and sends a clear message that we take these types of offences by our member federations extremely seriously,” added Coe.
“We have consistently tried to separate the clean athletes from a tainted system, which is why we have reinstated the ANA process for athletes from Russia, enabling them to once again compete in international one-day competitions and earn prize money, but we have restricted the number of athletes eligible to compete in senior international and European events, including at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.” Half the $10m fine will be suspended for two years in order to further provoke cultural and behavioural change in Russia athletics.
“Clearly the previous measures were not enough to change the culture in Russian athletics,” added Coe. “We hope this further measure will be sufficient to provoke real change. But we need to be clear, if the initial sum of $5m is not paid by 1 July 2020, then the entire decision made today will be revisited and could result in the ANA status being revoked indefinitely.”
Coe also insisted that the Tokyo Olympics in July would go ahead despite the coronavirus pandemic. “As far as Tokyo is concerned, this is a sport that’s planning to be there,” said Coe. “This is what our internal teams are working to, and we’re working on that on a daily basis with the organising committee.” When asked whether World Athletics had discussed any contingency plans with the organisers, Coe added: “We are planning to be in Tokyo. There are no contingencies.”