A Moscow court has ruled that a German television documentary that alleged widespread doping among Russian athletes was based on inaccurate information. ARD, the broadcaster behind the film, was asked to pay a fine of £29. It was ruled by the court that the honor and integrity of the Russian Athletics Federation (VFLA) had been impugned by the ARD documentary.
The documentary, which was first shown December last year, resulted in an international furor and was the reason behind suspension of Russian athletes from international competition. The film triggered the deepest crisis in Russian sports since the boycott-hit 1980 Moscow Olympics. The documentary was based on secret recordings obtained by the Russian middle- distance runner Yulia Stepanova and her husband Vitaly, who were also asked by the court to pay a fine of 3,000 roubles (£29) each along with the film’s producer, Hajo Seppelt. The program was the basis on which the World Anti-Doping Agency made a hard-hitting report that then prompted the world governing body of athletics to suspend Russia last month.
Valentin Balakhnichev, the former president of the VFLA, said ARD following the court’s decision do not have to issue a retraction, as they are from Germany and the court process was in Russia. The former VFLA President said Russian law can now let us say that all the information in this film is a lie and added this is a big step forward in defending our interests and our rights. Balakhnichev added the ruling could help Russian athletes be reinstated.
Four senior athletics officials are expected to make an appearance before ethics commission of the IAAF, the world governing body of athletics, after being accused of covering up doping offences. The officials include former IAAF consultant Papa Massata Diack, the son of the IAAF former president Lamine Diack. The others are former Russian Athletics Federation (ARAF) president and IAAF treasurer Valentin Balakhnichev, ex-IAAF anti-doping director Gabriel Dolle, and the ARAF’s former long-distance athletics coach Alexei Melnikov.
In another development, the World Olympians Association (WOA) has called blanket bans on competitors from doping-tainted nations “unjust”. In a statement, WOA said urgent action is required to ensure clean athletes are allowed to take part in major sporting events.
Russian athletes are likely to miss the World indoor athletics championships in the United States in March. They also face a race against time to be cleared to compete in the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in August. Without mentioning Russia specifically, WOA President Joel Bouzou said in a statement we believe banning clean athletes is unjust and that sport and its many fans will ultimately pay the price as they will miss the opportunity to see their clean heroes compete at the highest level. Bouzou added the individual rights of clean athletes should also be respected as well as their right to train and to compete in the sport that they love. He also remarked an urgent solution is needed for athletes who are seeking to qualify for and participate in major events allowing them to train, prepare and compete with certainty.