Russia plays down athletics ban, says will be resolved in a few months
MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia’s suspension from international athletics will be resolved in two to three months, Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said on Saturday as officials moved to play down the ban.
The International Association of Athletics Federations’ (IAAF) voted overwhelmingly on Friday to suspend Russia from the sport for widespread and state-sponsored doping, a decision which could cost the country its place at the 2016 Olympics.
“It is a predictable and understandable decision,” Mutko told R-Sport news agency. “We need to understand what they want and where they see threats.
“We will develop a joint road map and try do it quickly. I think we can do all the work in two to three months.”
Russia is one of the main superpowers in world athletics and finished second behind the United States in the track and field medal count at the 2012 Olympics in London.
President Vladimir Putin has also used sporting successes to promote his image of Russia as a resurgent global power, portraying its hosting of a successful winter Olympics in Sochi in 2014 as a symbol of a newly confident nation.
Now Russia will be stripped of hosting the world race walking and world junior championships next year and will have to work fast to make the Rio Olympic Games in August 2016.
But Mutko dismissed the possible consequences of the IAAF’s decision.
“What will happen? Yes, nothing will happen. Athletics will develop, the guys will train. Well, they will miss maybe one tournament,” R-Sport quoted him as saying.
Vadim Zelichenok, the acting head of the Russian Athletics Federation, said the IAAF ban was harsh and everything must be done to rectify the situation, R-Sport reported.
“I believe, the IAAF council made a decision which was too severe,” Zelichenok was quoted as saying.
“Most important is that our sportsmen can appear at international competitions as soon as possible.”
(Reporting by Jack Stubbs; editing by John Stonestreet)