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Australia backs calls for Russia Olympics ban

Australia backs calls for Russia Olympics ban

MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Australia has backed the World Anti-Doping Agency’s recommendation that Russia be banned from international athletics, including the 2016 Olympics, after a report alleged systematic state-backed cheating.

Athletics Australia Chief Executive Phil Jones said on Tuesday there was not enough time for Russia to prove itself clean before next year’s Games in Rio de Janeiro.

“The runway clearly is very short to address all the issues that the report calls out,” he told state radio broadcaster ABC.

“I think given the time between now and the Rio Olympics, it’s very difficult to see that their house is going to be demonstrably in order by the middle of next year.”

An anti-doping commission set up by WADA reported allegations of widespread corruption and collusion by Russian officials, including state security services, to cover up the results of drug tests, destroy samples and intimidate laboratory staff.

Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said there was no evidence for the accusations against the Russian Athletics Federation, and that the samples had been destroyed at WADA’s request.

The WADA report also identified “systematic failures” at the IAAF, athletics’ world governing body, which has been rocked by a French judicial investigation into fraud involving its former chief Lamine Diack and other senior officials.

The accusations have angered Australian athletes, including race walker Jared Tallent, who took silver medals at the London Olympics and 2008 Beijing Games behind athletes subsequently found guilty of using performance-enhancing drugs.

At London, Tallent finished second in the 50km walk behind Russian Sergei Kirdyapkin, who was found guilty of doping earlier this year and handed a three-year, two-month suspension by Russia’s anti-doping agency.

The ban was backdated to Oct. 2012, just after the Games ended.

“1185 days have past since I raced in London. How many more do I have to wait until I receive my Olympic gold medal?” Tallent said on Twitter after the allegations broke.

Only the IAAF has the power to ban Russia from international competition and the governing body, under new President Sebastian Coe, has given Russia a week to respond formally to the allegations.

Jones doubted Russia was alone in its doping problems.

“I don’t think it’s surprising in any way,” he added.

“It’s difficult to imagine Russia is the only country where there would be anti-doping issues. It would be very surprising if Russia was an island in this regard.”

The report has cast doubt on results at a number of international events, including the London Games, where Russia won eight gold among 17 medals in athletics.

Athletics New Zealand joined Australia in supporting the WADA stance and said if Russia was proved to have been involved then they should face sanctions.

“We believe that any country that does not fully adopt and adhere to the WADA Code should be held accountable and subject to sanctions contained within the Code,” Athletics NZ Chief Executive Linda Hamersley said in a statement.

“We hope that other member federations will support the IAAF to ensure that the sport uses this as an opportunity to look at the current practices and then at what is needed to make improvements.”

(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Greg Stutchbury/Peter Rutherford)

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