Track and field’s world governing body announced on Friday that the Russian team will not be allowed to participate in the Rio Olympics this summer, stating that Russia had not done enough to restore global confidence in the integrity of its athletes after an enormous doping scandal rocked the sports world earlier this year.
IAAF President Sebastian Coe said that the decision to uphold Russia’s suspension was made unanimously by the IAAF council. Coe said that while Russia has made progress in fighting doping, not enough has been done and Russian athletes could not “credibly return to the Olympics.”
“I think it sends a very, very powerful message,” Coe said about the ban during a press conference. “I think it sends a strong message from the IAAF that this is a non-negotiable proposition.”
The lack of Russian athletes in the track and field events is sure to be felt in Rio. In 2012, Russia took a total of 16 track medals, including 8 golds.
In a statement released after the news broke, the Russian Ministry of Sport issued a statement saying that it is “extremely disappointed in the IAAF’s decision” and that it will now appeal to the IOC to reconsider the ban.
An amendment to the suspension allows certain Russian athletes to compete independently if they can demonstrate that they are clean. (Some whistleblowers may also be allowed to compete.) IAAF officials warned that while these amendments were made, it will be very difficult for Russian athletes to be approved.
“The crack in the door that is open to apply for this is quite narrow,” Rune Andersen, a Norwegian international anti-doping expert and chair of the IAAF Inspection Team, said about these exemptions.
“The easiest way would have been to say Russian Athletic Federation is not reinstated and there is no exceptions. That would’ve been the easy way. We have been advised by outside counsel that in order for this to stand up to the proportionality rule, if you wish, then there should be a way out,” Anderson said about the decision to amend the suspension.
The International Olympic Committee has final say on the ban, though the IOC typically agrees with the decisions of individual governing bodies. The IOC is scheduled to discuss the ban on Tuesday. Coe said that the IOC should uphold the IAAF’s decision.
Following the IAAF’s announcement, USA Track & Field (USATF) released a statement supporting the council’s decision. USATF wrote that the suspension of RUSAF is “the only proper course of action given the compelling and powerful evidence presented to the Council.”
Athletes took to Twitter to react to the news.