World Athletics condemns RusAF for failing to pay $5m doping fine

World Athletics president Sebastian Coe speaks during a press conference on March 12, 2020 (by The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)

World Athletics president, Sebastian Coe, has said the Russian Athletics Federation (RusAF) is falling “well short of expectations” after confirming that the world governing body has not received the payments due as part of sanctions imposed due to the country’s doping scandal.

RusAF president Yevgeny Yurchenko had earlier said that his federation’s finances had been affected by Covid-19, adding that it had requested an extension on the payment deadline.

However, World Athletics yesterday (Thursday) said it had not received the payments due on July 1, nor any information on when the monies may be paid, despite what it claims were reminders and correspondence with the Federation.

As a result, World Athletics has stood down both the Doping Review Board (DRB), which vets Russian athletes seeking neutral status to compete internationally, and the Russian Taskforce monitoring RusAF reform until its Council has reviewed and discussed the situation at their meeting on July 29-30, as set out in the decision made by the Council on March 12.

The payments due from RusAF by July 1 were a fine of $5m (€4.45m) and $1.31m in other costs. RusAF was fined $10m in total by the World Athletics Council back in March for breaching the sport’s anti-doping rules.

World Athletics also reinstated the Authorised Neutral Athlete (ANA) process for Russian athletes but capped the number of ANAs allowed to compete in the Tokyo Olympic Games and other World Athletics and European Athletics events at 10.

No restrictions were placed on the number of ANA athletes eligible to compete in international one-day events around the world. World Athletics stressed however that the ANA process would be suspended if half of the $10m fine was not paid by July 1.

The remaining $5m of the fine was due to be suspended for two years, but paid immediately if RusAF committed a further breach of anti-doping rules during that period, or if it failed to make “meaningful progress” towards satisfying the reinstatement conditions set by the Council.

RusAF has been suspended from the membership of World Athletics since November 2015, a status that was upheld by the sport’s world governing body ahead of the 2019 World Championships in Doha.

World Athletics yesterday said that both the Russian Taskforce and DRB have moved forward in a number of areas such as the process to recruit two independent experts to work alongside RusAF and its Reinstatement Commission on a detailed reinstatement plan.

The DRB has also opened up the ANA process to facilitate the granting of ANA status for athletes returning to competition, in preparation for the fine being paid by July 1. Both of these processes will now be put on hold until the Council meets at the end of July to ensure World Athletics is not incurring additional costs that may not be reimbursed.

Coe said: “We recognise these are difficult times, but we are very disappointed by the lack of progress made by RusAF in terms of the requirements set in March. The serious allegations of breaching the anti-doping rules resulted in a new RusAF administration and we had assurances and hoped that change was on its way.

“However, the experience of the Russian Taskforce, chaired by Rune Andersen, is that this has fallen well short of expectations. RusAF is letting its athletes down badly. We have done as much as we can to expedite our ANA process and support RusAF with its reinstatement plan, but seemingly to no avail. The terms of payment of the fine and costs were clear and unchallenged by RusAF at the time so this issue will now need to return to Council at the end of July, as we stated in March.”

Russian Anti-Doping Agency (Rusada) director general, Yuri Ganus, told state news agency Tass that he expects the latest development to lead to RusAF being expelled by World Athletics. He said: “This is a precedent, and I’m sure that World Athletics sees it as a challenge, and they accepted it.

“World Athletics is now thinking about what will happen if another athletics federation behaves in the same way. Therefore, they will be extremely tough in their decision, and these decisions will be indicative for the whole world.”