The World Athletics Council has granted an extension to the deadline for the Russian Athletics Federation’s Reinstatement Commission to finalise its reinstatement plan.
The original deadline was 30 September 2020, but the Council has now approved a recommendation from its Russia Taskforce: “That the deadline for the RusAF Reinstatement Commission to produce an appropriate reinstatement plan be extended to no later than 1 March 2021.”
The primary reason for the Taskforce’s recommendation is that it believes RusAF currently does not have the resources available to produce a detailed and appropriate plan for reinstatement, which includes the elements required by the Council.
These requirements are: to ingrain throughout Russian athletics (including coaches and other support personnel employed by the Centre for Sports Preparation and/or through regional Ministries of Sport) a culture of zero tolerance for doping; and to rehabilitate RusAF so that it becomes a trusted ally of World Athletics in the fight for clean sport.
The RusAF Reinstatement Commission provided a draft plan by the specified deadline of 31 August 2020, one of the actions required to prevent the World Athletics Council from instigating expulsion proceedings.
However the Taskforce found that “although the draft plan was better than what has come before (in particular, in acknowledging the doping culture in Russian athletics, and in identifying some of the systemic issues that have to be addressed to change that culture), it is nevertheless seriously deficient and does not meet most of the requirements set out in Council’s decision, particularly in relation to details of how RusAF’s strategic goals will be implemented and in relation to identification of the performance indicators to be used to assess progress towards those goals.
“The Taskforce could not possibly provide feedback that would facilitate turning this product into an acceptable plan by the end of September unless we took on the job of rewriting it ourselves, when our job is supposed to be only the provision of advice and feedback on what they come up with based on their own analysis of the situation. It is critical that RUSAF take and retain ownership for their plan and that they remain as the primary authors of it.”
The Taskforce noted: “This failure appears to be due not to a lack of willingness but rather a lack of knowhow and resources. There is currently a void at RusAF – they have no board, no senior management, and very few experienced staff. They need to fill that void urgently with people who share the vision to change the culture of the organisation and the sport, and who have the skills to do so. We understand they are in the process of organising the election of a new President and management board, which will obviously be an important step.”
The Taskforce is satisfied that the resubmitted plan has been developed and signed off by the key stakeholders that make up the Reinstatement Commission.
Support from experts
World Athletics is in the process of engaging its two international experts who will be able to guide and support the new RusAF team to produce an adequate plan.
Dr Margarita Pakhnotskaya, the former Deputy Director-General of RUSADA, has been appointed as one of the two experts based in Russia.
At RUSADA, she led education strategy, compliance issues and international relations. She was also the Chair of the Ad Hoc Group on Protection of Whistleblowers in Anti-doping, part of the Monitoring Group of the Anti-Doping Convention in the Council of Europe.
The second Russian-based expert will be a change management professional and will be announced shortly.
The Council will consider the status of the Authorised Neutral Athlete (ANA) programme, which has previously allowed individual Russian athletes to compete internationally despite RusAF’s suspension, at its December meeting. The ANA programme has been suspended since March.
The Taskforce expects that there will be considerable progress on the reinstatement plan before this meeting. It has recommended that the Council assess this progress monthly from December, but only ask the Doping Review Board to consider applications for ANA status for 2021 if and when the Taskforce and the Council are satisfied that a meaningful plan will be put into place.
World Athletics president Sebastian Coe said the Taskforce’s approach was “sensible and pragmatic”.
“I would like to thank Rune Andersen and his Taskforce for their diligent work over the last month. They have determined that the RusAF Reinstatement Commission needs more time to put a proper reinstatement plan in place and we are confident that they continue to guide us well.
“The ANA process for 2021 will be reviewed and discussed against progress of the plan at the December Council meeting. The Taskforce believes that the international experts will be very well-equipped to help RusAF’s Reinstatement Commission complete the plan in a matter of two or three months, but they recommended a long-stop deadline of 1 March 2021. If an adequate plan is not completed by then, the Council will once again consider the matter of RusAF’s expulsion.”