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Sport

Athletics: Russia gets six-month extension to submit reinstatement plan

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia’s suspended athletics federation (RusAF) has been granted a six-month extension to finalise its reinstatement plan before World Athletics decides on potential fresh sanctions or even expulsion, the sport’s global governing body said on Saturday.

RusAF was suspended in 2015 after a report commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) found evidence of mass doping among track and field athletes.

The World Athletics Council said it had approved a recommendation from its Russia Taskforce to extend the deadline for the federation to produce an appropriate reinstatement plan by March 1, 2021.

The Taskforce felt the missed deadline “appears to be due not to a lack of willingness but rather a lack of know-how and resources”.

RusAF paid a multi-million-dollar fine to World Athletics last month to avoid expulsion by the governing body but still needed to submit a draft reform plan by Aug. 31.

World Athletics said RusAF -- which said it welcomed the extension -- had provided the draft plan before the deadline, one of the actions required to prevent its council from instigating expulsion proceedings.

“Although the draft plan was better than what has come before... it is nevertheless seriously deficient and does not meet most of the requirements set out in Council’s decision,” World Athletics said in a statement.

World Athletics said it had appointed Margarita Pakhnotskaya, the former deputy director-general of Russia’s anti-doping agency, as one of two international experts who would help RusAF to produce a proper reinstatement plan.

“If an adequate plan is not completed by then, the Council will once again consider the matter of RusAF’s expulsion.”

The federation’s troubles have snowballed in recent months, with some of its officials and senior coaches embroiled in doping scandals.

The process by which Russian athletes had in the past been cleared to compete internationally despite the federation’s suspension was halted in March. World Athletics said the status of this programme would be considered by its Council when it convened in December.

The Russian federation’s handling of the crisis has angered some of Russia’s top athletes, including three-times world high jump champion Maria Lasitskene, who has been among its most vocal critics.

On Saturday she wrote on Instagram that the decision -- apart from Pakhnotskaya’s appointment -- showed “yet another failure by RusAF and the Russian sports leadership”.

“We are still sitting at home and listening to the same stories on progress with our ties to World Athletics,” she wrote.

Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai and Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber in Moscow; editing by Sam Holmes and Clare Fallon

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