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IAAF provisionally suspends Russia

Russian athletes will be barred from competing at events including 2016 Rio Olympics; pole vaulter Isinbayeva slams world body chief Sebastian Coe's 'toughest sanction'

Paris: Athletics giant Russia was provisionally suspended from track and field on Friday over accusations of "state-sponsored" doping as the IAAF scrambled to salvage the sport's credibility just nine months out from the Rio Olympics.

Russia's Yelena Isinbayeva celebrates after winning gold in the women's pole vault at the World Athletics Championships in Moscow on August 13, 2013. Pic/Getty Images
Russia's Yelena Isinbayeva celebrates after winning gold in the women's pole vault at the World Athletics Championships in Moscow on August 13, 2013. Pic/Getty Images

"Today we have been dealing with the failure of ARAF (All-Russia Athletic Federation) and made the decision to provisionally suspend them, the toughest sanction we can apply at this time," IAAF president Sebastian Coe said.

"But we discussed and agreed that the whole system has failed the athletes, not just in Russia, but around the world. This has been a shameful wake-up call and we are clear that cheating at any level will not be tolerated."

Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said the ban was predictable. "I don't think they could have taken any other decision with the sword of Damocles that they had over their heads, with the pressure exerted on the commission," Mutko told the Russian TASS news agency.

Russian Mikhail Butov, an IAAF council member and ARAF secretary general, presented his country's position before 24 of the 27-strong IAAF Council chaired by Coe.

Sebastian Coe
Sebastian Coe

But the council returned a vote of 22 for and 1 against, the simple majority confirming a suspension for Russia, who were accused of widespread doping by an independent commission set up by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) in a report which has shaken track and field, one of the Olympic Games' flagship sports.

In that report, commission head Dick Pound, a former president of WADA, called for Russia to be suspended for 2016 "so that they can take the remedial work in time to make sure that Russian athletes can compete under a new framework".

The IAAF took his words to heart, saying the consequences of the provisional suspension were that "athletes and athlete support personnel from Russia may not compete in international competitions including World Athletic Series competitions and the Olympic Games".

It also means Russia "will not be entitled to host the 2016 World Race Walking Cup (Cheboksary) and 2016 World Junior Championships (Kazan)".

'Spare honest athletes'
Calls by Russia's star pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva and Ukraine's former pole vault legend Sergey Bubka, the IAAF vice-president, not to enforce collective punishment against all Russian athletes also fell on deaf ears.

"The situation around the Russian athletics team is very sad. But I'd like to issue a pressing request: don't reduce all our athletes to the same level," said Isinbayeva, who has set 28 world records.

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