Drug Free Sport NZ CEO calls for Russia to be banned from Rio

Calls continue for Russia to be banned from the Rio Olympics. Photo / Getty
Calls continue for Russia to be banned from the Rio Olympics. Photo / Getty

Drug Free Sport New Zealand chief executive Graeme Steel has joined the chorus demanding Russian track and field athletes be banned from the Rio Olympics.

"They shouldn't be there," Steel told Newstalk ZB from an anti-doping conference in London. "The leopard hasn't changed its spots. The evidence that we [anti-doping bosses] have seen from the most recent German video is pretty compelling. It shows supposedly-banned Russian athletes are still operating and are, in fact, on coaches' official lists. High-profile coaches are still prepared to offer testosterone over the phone to people posing as athletes."

Despite doping still appearing to be widespread in the international sporting community, Steel believes anti-doping agencies are winning the overall fight.

"It depends how you define winning and losing. Have we caught every cheat? No, but from my perspective we've got to work towards a system where New Zealand athletes have a shot of winning clean on the world stage.

"We have numerous world champions. I can't guarantee they are all clean, but I can tell you not all are doping. That shows you can win on the world stage without doping, whereas the likes of Val [shot putter Valerie Adams] couldn't have won 20 years ago. She wouldn't have had a prayer, or been within a metre of what they were throwing. You can't dope in the gross fashion that used to occur.

"It is still critical that sports remain committed [to anti-doping]. That's the only way you can drill down to athletes through education."

Steel's comments come in contrast to those of Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko, who told Reuters his country had already done enough to meet the anti-doping standards dictated by world athletics' governing body, and to claim a place at the Olympics.

Speaking after the IAAF declined to lift their doping ban, Mutko said Russia had done everything asked of it, and added the IAAF criteria were unclear.

"You say we should elect new leadership for the athletics federation - OK, we've done that. You should not elect anyone to be the leader who has done this or that - OK, we did that.

"What should Russian athletics do? Dance on the table? Sing a song?"

The IAAF said Russia had significant work to do before they were reinstated, after the World Anti-Doping Agency report which exposed widespread cheating and corruption in Russian athletics last year and ignited a sporting scandal.

IAAF president Sebastian Coe said a final decision would be taken in May; Mutko said the point of no return for Russian athletes was mid-July. Coe added that Ethiopia, Morocco, Kenya, Ukraine and Belarus are also in "critical care" situations and must improve their anti-doping programmes before they are granted the right to compete.

As things stand, Russian athletes will be barred from competing at the Olympics, a blow to the reputation of a sporting superpower where success is integral to national pride.

Mutko said the IAAF's decision to uphold the ban would further punish clean athletes and damage Russian competitors' performance in Rio if they are eventually allowed to compete.

"This completely contradicts the spirit and philosophy of sport and the whole struggle against doping," he said.

Russia finished behind the US on the London Olympics' track and field medal table.

Mutko said missing the Rio Games is expected to result in funding being cut and sponsors looking elsewhere, endangering the future of Russian athletics.

- NZ Herald

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