Russia is serious about reforming after the doping scandal which led to its suspension from international athletics and put in jeopardy its participation at this year's Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, it was claimed today.
Rune Andersen, independent chairman of the Taskforce set-up by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) to oversee the return of Russia to competition, today completed a two-day trip to Moscow to hold talks with the Interim Coordination Commission (ICC) established by the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) and All-Russian Athletics Federation (ARAF).
“We have today continued our frank and open discussions with representatives of ARAF and the Interim Coordination Commission, led by Mr Gennady Aleshin," Andersen, a Norwegian and former director of standards and harmonisation at the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), said.
"The Taskforce has emphasised the need to demonstrate a recognition of current problems and a determination to effect real and lasting change in Russian athletics, and that has been recognised by Mr Aleshin and his colleagues.”
It was the first visit of the Taskforce, which also includes Namibia's International Olympic Committee member Frankie Fredericks, to Russia since the IAAF banned the ARAF in November in the aftermath of the WADA Independent Commission publishing allegations of state-supported doping in the country.
Aleshin, President of the Russian Swimming Federation, claimed they had already started implementing many of the recommendations laid out by the IAAF for the ban to be lifted.
The meeting discussed the arrangements that are being put in place for the speedy resolution of pending doping cases, the thorough investigation of matters raised in the WADA Independent Commission's report, the collection of whereabouts information from and the rigorous testing of Russian athletes pending WADA's reinstatement of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency, as well as education and other measures to embed a new culture of zero tolerance for doping in Russian athletics.
“We are glad to have had the opportunity to meet with the IAAF Taskforce for constructive and professional discussions," said Aleshin.
"We are committed to working with Rune Andersen and his colleagues moving forward to meet all IAAF requirements.”
The Taskforce will only recommend reinstatement of Russia if, and when, it is satisfied that the Reinstatement Conditions set out by the IAAF have been met, and will continue to be met moving forward.
These include the removal of any officials or coaches who were involved in drug use or cover-ups and establishing “a strong anti-doping culture".
The ARAF are due to elect a new President on Sunday (January 16) but there remain doubts over the suitability of the leading candidate, Mikhail Butov.
He is the current secretary general of the governing body and a member of the ruling IAAF Council.
The 54-year-old, fluent in English and German, is the favourite to replace Valentin Balakhnichev, who stood down as head of the ARAF last February following allegations made by German broadcaster ARD that he was involved in covering-up drugs tests involving Russian athletes.
Balakhnichev, head coach of the Soviet Union athletics team between 1978 and 1984, was last week banned for life by the IAAF Ethics Commission, along with Russian long-distance running and race-walking coach Alexei Melnikov and Papa Massata Diack, the consultant and son of former IAAF President Lamine Diack.
Butov, competitions director of the IAAF World Championships 2013 in Moscow, appears to be the obvious choice to take over at the ARAF and will offer a bridge between Russia's governing body and IAAF.
Questions, however, will inevitably be asked as to how much he knew about what was allegedly going on within the ARAF as he was their marketing director as far back as 2004.
More revelations could yet emerge about Russia and its relationship with the IAAF when the WADA Independent Commission publishes the second part of its report at a press conference in Munich on Thursday (January 14).