IAAF meets to vote on sweeping reforms as Russia continues to cast a shadow

Published: Wednesday 30th November 2016 by The News Editor

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World athletics chiefs will be told Russia has made almost no progress with the reforms needed before its athletes can compete internationally again when the head of the IAAF taskforce gives an update on Thursday.

Rune Andersen’s report is the highlight of the two-day meeting of the International Association of Athletics Federations council in Monaco.

But the Norwegian anti-doping expert, who has been the IAAF’s representative in Russia since the country’s athletics federation was suspended a year ago, will have little to pass on.

Press Association Sport understands the IAAF is getting increasingly frustrated with the pace of change, with time running out for RusAthletics (RusAF) to meet the reinstatement criteria before next summer’s World Championships in London.

A key date will be December 9, when two-time Olympic pole vault champion Yelena Isinbayeva is expected to be elected as RusAF’s new president in Moscow and Canadian law professor Richard McLaren delivers his final report into Russia’s state-sponsored doping programme in London.

But RusAF is not the only organisation still struggling to recover from the seismic shocks caused by Russia’s endemic cheating as the IAAF’s complicity in that scandal continues to haunt the international federation, too.

On Saturday, the IAAF’s 207 member associations gather in the Mediterranean principality to vote on president Sebastian Coe’s package of reforms at the first special congress in over 20 years.

Lord Coe’s message in the ‘Time for Change’ document is stark: “It is time to leap, not tip toe.”

He also referred to the “uncomfortable challenges” he has faced ever since replacing Lamine Diack as IAAF president in August 2015.

Diack, who ran the IAAF for 16 years, and co-conspirators face criminal corruption charges in France.

Only last week, German broadcaster ARD and French newspaper Le Monde made new allegations about the scale of Diack’s alleged fraud, while a week earlier Le Monde published new claims that Qatar paid bribes to try to secure the 2017 World Championships – an allegation Qatar denies.

Coe, who was one of Diack’s vice-presidents for eight years, has spent the last few months consulting with athletics bosses around the world in an attempt to sell the reforms. There are four main strands: an improved governance structure, greater representation for athletes, gender equality and the creation of an independent integrity unit.

If Coe gets the two-thirds backing he requires – and he is understood to want a mandate of more than 80 per cent – the changes will phased in over the next three years.

“Our partnerships and revenue streams are directly under threat if we do not act promptly and decisively,” wrote Coe.

“This could impact on all levels of the sport, not the least the development of athletics at both elite and grass-roots level.

“We must accept that the reputation of the IAAF and athletics has been tarnished by events that came to light a year ago.

“We still have a lot of work to do to restore our reputation, credibility and trust within our own sport and the wider world of sport.”

Before Saturday’s key vote, however, there are a few other issues to settle.

The first is who will host the 2018 World Race Walking Team Championships and 2019 World Cross Country Championships. Both of these events were taken from Russia and are now set to go to the Chinese city of Taicang and Denmark’s Aarhus, respectively.

And on Friday, the winners of the male and female World Athlete of the Year titles will be announced, with Usain Bolt, Mo Farah and South African 400m star Wayde van Niekerk up for the men’s prize, and Ethiopian 10,000m runner Almaz Ayana, Jamaican sprinter Elaine Thompson and Polish hammer thrower Anita Wlodarczyk shortlisted for the women’s award.

The IAAF confirmed in a statement that Taicang would stage the World Race Walking Team Championships.

Published: Wednesday 30th November 2016 by The News Editor

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