Sebastian Coe will find himself firmly in the spotlight once again on Tuesday as track and field's governing body, IAAF, mulls over reintegrating doping-tainted Russia into world athletics.
The Russian athletics federation (RUSAF) was initially banned by the Coe-headed IAAF in November 2015 over allegations of widespread government-backed doping fraud, with that suspension upheld eight times since.
The landscape has changed somewhat, however, with the World Anti-Doping Agency's (WADA) September lifting of the three-year ban on Russia's anti-doping agency (RUSADA) for non-compliance.
WADA drew heavy international criticism when it voted to declare RUSADA “compliant”, before being granted access to Moscow raw data. It responded by promising it will impose new sanctions if Russia did not cooperate by December 31 and a team visited the Russian capital last week.
The WADA decision has left the IAAF facing a tough decision and even led RUSAF to appeal against its IAAF suspension at the Court of Arbitration of Sport .
Coe insisted, after WADA's decision to lift the ban, that Russia needed to meet two pre-conditions to be allowed to return to international athletics competition.
Firstly, Russian authorities must acknowledge the findings of the McLaren and Schmid Commissions that sports ministry officials were implicated in the scheme to cover up the doping of Russian athletes as described in their reports.
And secondly Russian authorities must provide access to the data from testing of samples at the Moscow laboratory from 2011-2015, so that the Athletics Integrity Unit can determine whether the suspicious findings reported in the Moscow lab's database should be pursued.
- 'See things out' -
“We need to see things out to the end,” Frenchman Bernard Amsalem, a member of the IAAF Council, said. “We imposed conditions and if those conditions aren't fulfilled, then we must extend the suspension of Russia.”
In Tuesday's meeting in Monaco, Norwegian Rune Andersen, who heads up the IAAF's Russian taskforce team, will present his recommendations to the Council, after which Coe will call on the 26-strong body to vote on Russia's possible reintegration.
“What would we do if WADA isn't able to get access to the laboratory data between now and December 31?” asked Amsalem in reference to WADA's demands that access to the Moscow lab be a condition of the continued reinstatement of RUSADA.
“I know Council members, like me, who will not yield.”
While RUSAF has been banned, the IAAF has in fact given some leeway, allowing Russian athletes who could prove they were clean and training in proper environments to compete under a neutral flag.
“We've already reintegrated numerous athletes, we've left the door open for a little while,” Amsalem said.
The last full Russian athletics delegation competed at the 2015 Beijing world championships. Since then, one Russian competed in the Rio Olympics in 2016, 19 at the London world championships a year later and 72 at the European champs in Berlin in August.
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