Russia will not boycott next year’s Olympics even if the country’s track and field athletes are banned from competing, the nation’s sports minister, Vitaly Mutko, said on Friday (AEDT).
The IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federations) will rule on Friday on whether to ban Russia from international competitions over the doping scandal revealed by an explosive World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) commission report published on Monday.
In quotes published by British newspaper The Guardian, Mutko said that even if Russia’s athletes are suspended, “we don’t plan to boycott anything, anywhere”.
He also described Russia as “a dependable partner of the international Olympic movement”.
Former WADA president Dick Pound, whose report uncovered evidence of state-supported doping in Russia, called for the country to be suspended from competition, including next year’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, unless it overhauls its approach.
On Thursday, Russian president Vladimir Putin ordered an inquiry into WADA’s allegations, but said that only individual guilty athletes should face sanctions.
Sebastian Coe chairs the meeting on Friday to discuss suspending Russia over the allegations, with the crisis putting his leadership under the spotlight barely three months into the job.
Coe, having expressed his shock at the report’s findings, will preside over a meeting in Monaco of the ruling council of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) at which possible sanctions, including suspension, will be decided.
Coe said on Monday that his instinct was against banning Russia, but a day later he said the scale of the doping regime exposed by the report meant that the IAAF Council should consider the recommendation for such a temporary ban.
“We will investigate and if we find failures in our governance we will act,” Coe, who took over as president in August following the retirement of IAAF president Lamine Diack, said after publication of the WADA report.
His comments represent a major shift in tone.
Just a fortnight before being voted in as IAAF president Coe had described allegations of a widespread cover-up of doping in athletics, as a “declaration of war” on his sport.
Explaining that comment, he told reporters this week: “I’ve clarified this previously and I’ll say again that the comment was made in frustration about the selective use of data to besmirch clean athletes, and I made that clear at the time.
“It was not a criticism of any journalism or any media. It was simply a reaction to the selective use of data to call into question the reputation of clean athletes.”