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World athletics rocked by bombshell report

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Russia’s athletics federation should be suspended from all competition, including the 2016 Olympic Games, over widespread doping, a damning report by an independent commission of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) said overnight.

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The report outlined evidence of systematic cheating with the consent of the government in Moscow, noting that drug tests for athletes were conducted at a Russian lab which totally lacked credibility.

“It’s pretty disturbing”, said former WADA chief Dick Pound, who headed the three-man commission, adding that the extent of the cheating was “worse than we thought.”

The panel’s findings called for athletics’ governing body (IAAF) to suspend Russia’s athletics body (ARAF) and declare it “non-compliant” with globally agreed doping regulations.

IAAF President Sebastian Coe said he would give Russia until Friday to respond to the report.

“I want an explanation,” Coe said.

“I am completely shocked by the allegations. My instinct remains to encourage engagement not isolation, but the extent of what’s being said, I need to seek (IAAF) council support to have them (ARAF) report back by the end of the week.”

The IAAF Council will meet on Friday to discuss the crisis facing the Olympics’ flagship sport.

In their initial reactions to commission’s bombshell findings, Russian officials offered conflicting messages.

Sports minister Vitali Mutko pledged Moscow “will certainly fulfil” any recommendations that emerge from the IAAF or WADA following the report.

But separately, the head of the country’s anti-doping agency, Nikita Kamayev, called the report “groundless” and dismissed evidence that officials had destroyed test samples and accepted bribes from athletes.

The commission also called for five Russian athletes – including 800m Olympic winner Mariya Savinova – to be given lifetime bans, suggesting the presence of doped athletes had “sabotaged” the 2012 Games in London.

The Moscow anti-doping laboratory needed to be stripped of its accreditation and its director fired, the commission added.

Pound said that given the extent of the cheating among Russian track athletes, the doping was state-supported and “could not have happened” without tacit approval of authorities in Moscow.

When asked about possible next steps from Moscow, Pound suggested that the rot within the country’s track programme was so severe, he hoped Moscow would “volunteer” to remove its athletes from the Rio games.

He also voiced hope that Russia would “take the lead in fixing a problem that could…destroy” athletics.

Pressed on the consequences of inaction, especially if tainted Russian athletes compete in Rio, Pound insisted that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) would step in.

“The IOC is not going to sell out athletes that need to be protected” from those who dope, said Pound, a former IOC vice president.

The crisis which has shaken world athletics first erupted with allegations of doping aired in a German TV documentary in December 2014.

Pound said that “overwhelming portions” of the programme had been proven accurate.

Britain’s Sunday Times and the ARD channel also obtained a database belonging to the IAAF which contained more than 12,000 blood tests taken from around 5,000 athletes between 2001 to 2012.

The affair took a dramatic twist last week when former IAAF chief Lamine Diack was charged with corruption on suspicion of taking bribes to cover up doping cases.

The 82-year-old Senegalese was also charged with money laundering and conspiracy. His legal advisor Habib Cisse and a former IAAF anti-doping doctor were charged with corruption.

Global police body Interpol announced it was launching an investigation into the affair.

But, contrary to some expectations, Pound’s report did not address allegations of IAAF officials receiving bribes to cover up positive tests for athletes, including potential medal winners from past Olympic games.

However, the Canadian made clear, however, that WADA’s release included only the first part of the commission’s report, which focused largely on Russian athletics.

Further evidence of misconduct, including potentially among “rogue” individuals within the IAAF, is expected by the end of the year.

-AFP

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