World Athletics has opened the door for Russia’s track and field stars to compete at the Olympic Games in Tokyo next year – providing the country now fulfils its promises of serious reform.
The Russian Athletics Federation (Rusaf) looked close to being expelled from the sport in September but the election of a new president, Peter Ivanov, on Monday has led to cautious optimism that Russia could finally end its five-year suspension from the sport.
Rune Andersen, the chair of the World Athletics taskforce on restoring Russia’s membership, admitted there had been progress in developing “a meaningful reinstatement plan” to drive the cultural change required for Russia to return to full international membership of the sport by the deadline of 1 March 2021.
“A new framework agreement has been put in place,” he said. “The international experts have already begun working with the senior Rusaf management team, and have reported that that team has been very responsive and constructive in its approach.”
Rusaf was initially suspended in November 2015 following allegations of state-sponsored doping and appeared close to being kicked out of the sport after its former leaders attempted to cover-up an anti-doping investigation into Danil Lysenko, the 2018 world indoor high jump champion. It led to Dmitry Shlyakhtin, the president of the Russian track and field federation, being charged by the Athletics Integrity Unit and stepping down.
However, Russia was granted a reprieve after the sports minister, Oleg Matytsin, who promised they were committed to solving a number of issues, gave an “unconditional” promise to pay an outstanding fine of £5m.
The president of World Athletics, Sebastian Coe, said he would be “pleased” to see Russian athletes competing in Tokyo – even if it was under a neutral flag – but said that was dependent not only on the behaviour of Rusaf but on what the International Olympic Committee decided in the months ahead.