Europe athletics chief denies crisis despite Russian doping scandal

LONDON: Athletics is not in crisis despite the horrendous publicity following the exposure of state-sponsored doping by Russia, European Athletics Association president Svein-Arne Hansen said on Monday.
The 70-year-old Norwegian added the Russians would be back at some point competing under their flag instead of the neutral one they are obliged to race under now.
Hansen admits the scandal — precipitating a blanket ban on Russia’s athletes at last year’s Rio Olympics save for those who met stringent criteria — which also implicated officials from the sport’s governing body the IAAF had left a lot of people feeling let down.
“We are not proud of the decision (by the IAAF) to ban the Russian team taken in Vienna in June last year but we stand with it because it shows we don’t accept cheating in our sport,” said Hansen.
“I think last year’s European Championships in Amsterdam was a real game changer,” he added before delivering the keynote speech to the Sport Integrity Global Alliance (SIGA) Forum.
Hansen, elected to his post in 2015 after years as director of the historic Bislett Games meet, continued: “The stadium was full, there were good performances and a good atmosphere.
“European athletics is moving forward and we have put in a lot of things such as good governance.
“When I travel around Europe it is clear we are not a sport in crisis, we are not in Europe at least.
“We have so many people working so hard for this and they feel let down by what happened especially in Monaco (IAAF headquarters) and we are awaiting the outcome of the police investigation for real answers.”
Hansen said the criteria was in place — as stipulated last June in Vienna and then further measures were laid down last November — for a gradual return to athletic continental competition of Russian athletes this year.
“They (Russia as a nation) have to come back at one stage,” said Hansen, who will learn more about the progress being made by the Russian authorities at next Monday’s IAAF Council meeting when the team report back on their findings from a trip there last week.
“I know now that we are vetting about 10 for Belgrade (the European Indoor Championships March 3/5) and there are 50-60 in pipeline for London (World Athletics Championships in August) but at the moment they will compete under a neutral flag. “As a nation they will not be back until we are satisfied they have fulfilled the criteria,” said Hansen.
Hansen, who finds little free time these days to build on his other love his stamp collection largely made up of Norwegian stamps with the oldest one dating back to 1840, still wants life-time bans on drugs cheats and believes there are ways of implementing them.
“A lifetime ban is difficult but then if you can’t get that then impose 8-year ban and they (the drugs cheats) will be out (for good),” he said.
“Seb (Coe the president of the IAAF) and I both told federations not to send former dopers who served two year suspensions or more to championships.
“Only Russia has made that a law but they weren’t competing anyway.”
“Lifetime ban is very difficult but it is in the pipeline, eight years is a nuanced way of saying that.”
Hansen, who says the era of sports leaders feathering their own nests and not for the good of their sport is becoming a thing of the past, says a sign of better times is there is someone waiting to fill the vacuum a sponsor left after pulling out because of the scandal. — AFP