Nicolas Tucat / AFP / Getty Images

Russia track and field suspended from international competition

The country could be shut out of the 2016 Olympics in provisional suspension that stems from doping allegations

Russia's track and field federation was provisionally suspended Friday by the sport's governing body, keeping the country out of international competition for an indefinite period — possibly including next year's Olympics in Brazil.

The suspension was approved by a 22-1 vote during a teleconference of the 27-member council of the International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF). The organization's president, Sebastian Coe, convened the meeting after Russia was accused of widespread, systematic doping in a report released Monday by a World Anti-Doping Agency commission.

Coe was under pressure to take tough action, despite efforts by Russian officials to avoid a blanket ban by agreeing to cooperate and make reforms in their anti-doping system.

The suspension will take effect immediately, barring Russian athletes from all international track and field events until the country can prove it has put its house in order. It's the first time the IAAF has ever suspended a country over its doping record.

The Russian federation is likely to be given a month or so before appearing at a disciplinary hearing, at which the IAAF could elevate the sanction to a full suspension.

The IAAF and the World Anti-Doping Agency will need to set out the terms for what the Russians will have to do to get a suspension lifted, including complying fully with the global anti-doping code.

With the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro nine months away, the big question is whether Russia's track team will be allowed to compete in the games. Some Olympics officials have said they expect that Russia will have enough time to take the necessary steps to make it to the Olympics. 

Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said Friday he is "completely sure" that his country will be able to compete at the Olympics. Speaking before the IAAF meeting, he said he thought any suspension would be short.

"We may miss one or two competitions, but for athletes with clean consciences to miss the Olympics or a world championship would be real stupidity," he said in Moscow.

The suspension will keep Russia out of a dozen or so international events the rest of this year, including the European cross-country championships in France on Dec. 13. Russian athletes could also miss the indoor season, including the world indoor championships in Portland, Oregon, in March.

Other big events that Russian runners could be ineligible for include the Boston and London marathons in April.

Russia faces being stripped of the hosting rights for three IAAF events: the Moscow indoor meet in February, the world race-walking championships in Cheboksary in May and the world junior championships in Kazan in July. Russia has been the dominant force in world race-walking.

Russian athletes would be eligible to compete in domestic events during the suspension, which covers only international competition.

Some officials, including the IAAF's vice president, Sergei Bubka, the pole-vault great from Ukraine, argued against a blanket ban, saying it would penalize "innocent" athletes who haven't been found guilty or been implicated in doping.

However, the report by the anti-doping agency's panel outlined a deep-rooted, systematic doping system that cast doubt on the entire Russian athletics program, making it difficult to judge which athletes are clean.

Russia's IAAF council member, Mikhail Butov, presented his federation's position at the start of the meeting but then recused himself from the debate and the vote.

Russia's initial reaction to Monday's doping report was one of indignation, saying the allegations were politically motivated. However, in recent days, the tone shifted as President Vladimir Putin acknowledged the gravity of the problem and ordered an investigation by Russian sports leaders.

The Associated Press

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