Triple jumper Ekaterina Koneva was one of Russia's gold medallsts at the last World Indoor Championships in Sopot, but the country looks likely to miss the next edition ©Getty Images

Russia's Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko has brushed off the problem of his country's likely suspension from the World Indoor Athletics Championships in March - by claiming it will help athletes better prepare for the Rio 2016 Olympics.

It was revealed yesterday that the first report from the inspection team tasked with overseeing Russia's return to the fold is not expected until a meeting in Cardiff on March 27 - which will come too late to allow the country's participation at the World Indoors in Portland.

The event in the American city will run between March 17 and 20, and is a major date on the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) calendar which Russia will miss.

The country finished second in the medals table at the last edition in Sopot, Poland, in 2014, with three golds and two silvers in their haul of five.

There remains the possibility that Russian athletes will not be at Rio 2016 either, but Mutko doesn't seem concerned about this after predicting that being absent in Portland would aid his track and field stars in Brazil.

"We will most probably be absent from the event," he told Russian news agency TASS.

"Don’t you see the date, March 27?

"What do we need these championships for?

"Okay, we don’t go there.

"It’s not on the schedule of many athletes.

"We’ll get better prepared for the Olympics.

"Possibly, some had it on the agenda, but most of the leading athletes did not.

"Even if we skip it there will be no tragedy."

Mariya Kuchina won a high jump gold medal for Russia at the last World Indoor Championships in Sopot in 2014
Mariya Kuchina won a high jump gold medal for Russia at the last World Indoor Championships in Sopot in 2014 ©Getty Images

The IAAF's ruling Council voted 22-1 in favour of banning Russia last week in wake of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Independent Commission report which revealed widespread "state-supported" doping.

Russia was also stripped of the 2016 World Race Walking Cup in Cheboksary and the same year's World Junior Championships in Kazan. 

They will be missing from the European Cross Country Championships in Hyères, France, on December 13 - the first major event they will not feature at - but not appearing at Rio 2016 is seen as a doomsday scenario by sporting authorities such as the International Olympic Committee.

The inspection team, headed by Norway's anti-doping expert Rune Andersen, will assess Russia's potential reinstatement based on a set of criteria, which will be drawn up using five "principles" which the IAAF released yesterday.

These include sanctions for doping cheats, creating an effective anti-doping framework, deterring incentives to dope, implementing an anti-doping testing program and becoming IAAF and WADA compliant.

Mutko said that the IAAF themselves would have to comply with their own principles.

"Evaluating these principles is a senseless idea," he said.

"Whether we like them or not, we will have to comply with the principles put forward by them, but provided that the IAAF themselves conform to these principles, since this is not a criminal case against us."

The principles are subject to change and will be presented to the IAAF Council for discussion next week in Monaco, before consultation with WADA and the publication of the criteria.

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