— Published 18 November 2021

For Russian athletes, the nightmare continues

And that’s seven. The suspension of the Russian Athletics Federation (RusAF) was once again extended on Wednesday 17 November by the World Athletics Congress. Russia will remain excluded as a nation from international athletics for a seventh consecutive year.

Seven years, almost two Olympiads. The calculation is easy: the new generation of Russian athletes has known nothing but neutrality, uncertainty and the need to fill in eligibility forms every year since they were juniors.

The World Athletics Congress, meeting in virtual mode, did not hesitate before deciding to keep Russia at the door. According to the body’s report, 126 national federations voted in favour of extending RusAF’s suspension, imposed since November 2015. Only 18 opposed it. Thirty-four did not vote.

An important note: the congress vote was held after a presentation by the two parties concerned. The voters listened to each other, Rune Andersen, the head of the World Athletics Task Force on Russia, and Irina Privalova, the 2000 Olympic 400m hurdles champion and current President of RusAF.

Clearly, Rune Andersen’s report was more convincing than Privalova’s argument.

RusAF has made steady progress towards meeting the conditions set for its reintegration into world athletics,” explained Rune Andersen. The working group believes that these changes reflect a new culture within RusAF, which is broadly seeking to reject the doping practices of the past and commit to competing cleanly in the future.”

So the skies may be clearing. And with it, the prospects for reinstatement of Russian athletics. But Rune Andersen warned: “There are still people in Russian athletics who have not embraced this new culture, and there is still a lot of work to be done for RusAF to ensure that they do not exert influence, and that instead it is the new generation of athletes and coaches who drive Russian athletics forward.”

As a result, RusAF remains in her place, i.e. at the back of the room. But it could soon be invited to sit down again with the other national federations.

The motion voted on Wednesday 17 November by the World Athletics Congress specifies that the suspension of RusAF is maintained “until the Council decides that all the conditions set out have been met for the purpose of lifting the suspension of RusAF and its reinstatement”.

These conditions for reinstatement will have to be met by Irina Privalova without wasting time. The former sprinter and 400m hurdles specialist was elected President of RusAF last February, after a three-month interlude by the President of the Russian Triathlon Federation, Peter Ivanov. Since then, she has chosen a humble but pragmatic stance.

The strategic plan and the reintegration roadmap are being implemented step by step,” she explained to the Congress on Wednesday 17 November, by video conference from Moscow. The document is available on the World Athletics website, which will allow everyone to see the changes that are currently taking place in Russian athletics. We are working hard, there is still a lot to do. But the overriding feeling among us is that there will be no going back to the past.

Rune Andersen explained to the congress: once the suspension is lifted, the number of doping tests on Russian athletes will be increased again. They will be paid for by RusAF.