LONDON — Russia’s track and field federation was provisionally suspended Friday by the sport’s governing body, keeping the country out of international competition for an indefinite period — possibly including next year’s Olympics in Brazil.
The suspension was approved by a 22-1 vote during a teleconference of the 27-member council of the IAAF.
IAAF President Sebastian Coe convened the meeting after Russia was accused of widespread, systematic doping in a report released Monday by a World Anti-Doping Agency commission.
Coe was under heavy pressure to take tough action, despite efforts by Russian officials to avoid a blanket ban by agreeing to co-operate and make reforms in their anti-doping system.
The suspension will take effect immediately, barring Russian athletes from all international track and field events until the country can prove it has put its house in order. It’s the first time the International Association of Athletics Federations has ever banned a country over its doping record.
The Russian federation is likely to be given a month or so before appearing at a disciplinary hearing, where the IAAF could then elevate the sanction to a full suspension.
The IAAF and WADA will need to set out the terms for what the Russians need to do to get a suspension lifted, including complying fully with the global anti-doping code.
With the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro nine months away, the big question is whether Russia’s track team will be allowed to compete in the games. Some Olympic officials have said Russia should have enough time to take the necessary steps to make it to the Olympics, which run from Aug. 5-21.
Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said Friday he is “completely sure” that Russia will be able to compete at the Olympics. Speaking before the IAAF meeting, he said he thought any suspension would be short.
“We may miss one or two competitions, but for athletes with clean consciences to miss the Olympics or a world championships would be real stupidity,” he said in Moscow.
In the short term, the suspension will keep Russian out of a dozen or so international events the rest of this year, including the European cross-country championships in France on Dec. 13. The athletes could then miss the indoor season, including the world indoor championships in Portland, Oregon, from March 17-20.
Other big events that Russian runners could be ineligible for include the Boston and London Marathons in April.
Russia also faces being stripped of the hosting rights of three IAAF events — the Moscow indoor meet on Feb. 14, the world race walking championships in Cheboksary from May 7-15, and the world junior championships in Kazan from July 19-24. Russia has been the dominant force in world race walking.
Russian athletes would be eligible to compete in their own national events during a ban, which only covers international competition.
Some officials, including IAAF vice-president Sergei Bubka, the pole vault great from Ukraine, had argued against a blanket ban, saying it would penalize “innocent” athletes who haven’t been found guilty or implicated in doping.
However, the report by the WADA panel outlined a deep-rooted, systematic doping system that cast doubt on the entire Russian athletics program, making it difficult to judge which athletes are clean or not.
The IAAF council met by teleconference, chaired by Coe in London.
Russia’s IAAF council member, Mikhail Butov, presented his federation’s position at the start of the meeting, but then recused himself from the debate and the vote.
Russia’s initial reaction to Monday’s doping report was one of indignation and that the allegations were politically-motivated. However, in recent days, the tone shifted as President Vladimir Putin acknowledged the gravity of the problem and ordered an investigation by Russian sports leaders.