MONACO – Russia vowed Thursday to work "very actively" with track and field's governing body to eradicate the doping culture that led to its blanket ban from international competition, possibly including next year's Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
The decision by Russia's athletics federation not to contest the ban and its additional promise to work "very hard" to tackle doping represented a modest victory for Sebastian Coe, the embattled president of the International Association of Athletics Federations.
The move suggests that Coe's hardline stance against Russia is producing early results. It was Coe who first pushed the IAAF council to sanction Russia for systematic, state-sponsored doping identified by a World Anti-Doping Agency investigation. The council then voted 22-1 on Nov. 13 to provisionally suspend ARAF, the Russian athletics federation, barring it from international competition.
To be reinstated, Russia will now have to clear numerous hurdles, not only sanctioning athletes and others who doped or were complicit in cheating and cover-ups but also carrying out a series of reforms. It will have to satisfy an IAAF inspection commission that it has ticked all the boxes required to be allowed back into the fold. An IAAF council meeting on Thursday in Monaco was fleshing out details of what those boxes will be, exactly.
By accepting the IAAF suspension and waiving its right to a hearing, Russia signaled that it wants the process that could lead to its reinstatement to move forward quickly. In a letter to the IAAF, the general secretary of ARAF, Mikhail Butov, said: "We are working very hard now in Russia to change a lot."
"We will cooperate with (the) nominated commission very actively," Butov said. "I hope for a positive result after (a) certain time and (a) full come-back to the IAAF family."
That willingness to defuse the crisis of Russian doping is a boost for Coe as he faces tough questions about his own conduct.
The former two-time Olympic 1,500-meter champion is battling suggestions that his long-standing ties to Nike Inc. are no longer appropriate and pose a possible conflict of interest now that he is overseeing the sport, especially when confidence in its leadership is so low.
Coe's first months as IAAF president since August could hardly have been rougher, with French police arresting his predecessor, Lamine Diack, on corruption charges and the exposure by WADA that widespread doping in Russia, a track and field power, is likely government-backed.
Coe's paid advisory role for Nike is not on the agenda of the Monaco meeting and the IAAF says it "has never been seen, nor is it seen, as a matter of ethical concern." Still, he will almost surely face questions on the issue at a news conference after the council meeting.
Coe may also be grilled about whether he lobbied for the Oregon city of Eugene to host the 2021 world championships. Nike's headquarters are outside Portland, about 100 miles (160 kms) from Eugene.
Coe insisted he "did not lobby anyone" on Eugene's behalf. But the Swedish city of Gothenburg, which was also vying for the 2021 worlds, wants the process to be investigated. Eugene was awarded the championships, the first in the U.S., without an open bidding process.
The BBC also reported this week that British taxpayers funded part of Coe's IAAF presidential campaign.
UK Sport, a government-funded public body which also receives cash from Britain's National Lottery, contributed 63,000 pounds ($95,000) to British public relations company Vero Communications for its work on Coe's campaign.
Coe said on the IAAF website that the other "two thirds of the campaign was privately funded."
Coe beat Ukrainian pole vault great Sergei Bubka in the presidential election in Beijing, succeeding Diack.
UK Sport defended paying Vero Communications for Coe's campaign, saying it helps to ensure Britain "is in an influential position to drive good governance, leadership and development in international sport."