EUGENE, Ore. – The leader of global track and field said it would have been “inconceivable” to have allowed Russians into this week's world championships given the country's war against Ukraine.
At his news conference Thursday, the eve of the championships, World Athletics President Sebastian Coe said there was no budging from the position the federation took shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine in February.
“It was made from a very clear standpoint, and that was about the integrity of competition,” Coe said. “It would have been inconceivable to have a world championships here with athletes from Belarus and Russia, two aggressive nations who have walked into an independent state.”
Belarus, an ally of Russia in the war, is also banned from the worlds, which run from Friday through July 24.
One Russian athlete, three-time world-champion high jumper Maria Lasitskene, has publicly criticized Coe and IOC president Thomas Bach for their stance on her country.
The IOC recommended that sports exclude Russia from their events, and many sports followed that lead. Coe noted that World Athletics was one of the first federations to reach a position, one that won't change “for the foreseeable future,” in large part because of the challenges involved in getting the 22 Ukrainian athletes who qualified for worlds safely to the championships.
The position on Russia is separate from that country's athletics federation's ongoing suspension, which dates to 2015. That stems from the long-running doping scandal that spread through Russia starting two years previous to that. The suspension triggered a sanction that limited the number of Russian athletes who can compete at major events as neutrals. At the last worlds, in 2019, 29 competed.
But that program isn't in play here because of the war. Coe said that in this week's council meeting, members received an update about the doping issues from the task force in charge with monitoring Russia's compliance to the roadmap for reinstatement.
“I sort of feel like it's Season 17, Box Set 126” on the issue, Coe said, before ticking off the latest updates from the task force.
Most important is an independent audit of the Russian federation, results of which will be presented at a council meeting in November.
That's also when the council will consider changes in rules governing participation by transgender athletes and intersex athletes. Earlier this summer, Coe signaled that changes to those rules could be coming, but he said it was not an agenda item in this week's meetings.
“Though inclusivity has really been a watch word, the balance between inclusivity and fairness will always, in my view, fall now on the side of fairness,” he said in repeating comments he'd made earlier this summer that indicate there could be tighter restrictions on allowing transgender and intersex athletes to compete.