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International Governing Body Suspends Russian Track And Field


We are following the developing story in Paris, where up to 60 people have been killed in shootings around the city and people have been taken hostage. We'll update that story as we get information. Right now we're going to talk to NPR's Moscow correspondent Corey Flintoff about the Russian doping scandal. Russia's athletic federation has been suspended from world competitions. It's being called provisional, and it takes effect immediately.

And, Corey, how did this decision come about?

COREY FLINTOFF, BYLINE: Well, of course, this week we had a report from an independent commission that reported that Russia was involved in state-supported doping. The most damning allegation in that report was that the top Russian sports officials, up to and including the sports minister, had to have known about this program and may in fact have supported it. So the International Association of Athletic Federations - that governs world track and field events - voted 22-1 to suspend Russia. And this is huge for them. It's something that this organization had to do. The independent report was extremely critical of the International Association. It said it allowed Russian athletes to compete in things like 2012 Summer Olympics when they were known to have suspicious doping profiles. So the International Association and its chief, Sebastian Coe, are under a lot of pressure right now to show that they can deal with a huge scandal like this in their sport.

MCEVERS: I mean, does this mean that Russia will be able to participate in the Olympics, going forward?

FLINTOFF: Well, the provisional suspension means that as of now Russian athletes won't be allowed to compete in next year's summer Olympics or in another big track and field competition, the World Athletics Series. And that was the big fear among Russian sports officials. You know, some of them have been making conciliatory statements over the past couple of days saying that they would do anything, basically, to get themselves into compliance. The sports minister, Vitaliy Mutko, said that he would fire anyone who was involved in this, he'd start a new anti-doping program. But I don't know whether he realized how serious this was going to be. This also means that Russia won't be allowed to host important competitions, and they were slated to host the 2016 World Junior Championships next year.

MCEVERS: And what about now, I mean, will Russia refuse to accept this suspension?

FLINTOFF: Well, the international body says if Russia rejects this punishment it can be turned into a full suspension, and that would guarantee that Russian athletes wouldn't be allowed to compete in Rio this summer. If it does accept the suspension then there's a list of criteria that Russia will have to meet to get reinstated, and that will likely mean completely revamping its anti-doping program that was found to be noncompliant with the international rules today. The question is whether Russia can clean up its act in time to send athletes to Rio. You know, one issue is that many of the Russian sports officials who were named in the commission report are still in charge, and they show no signs of voluntarily leaving.

MCEVERS: Very quickly, Corey, how are Russians reacting to this news?

FLINTOFF: Well, judging from what we've heard from Russian officials before the decision, there may well be some pushback. President Putin called for an independent investigation, but he said explicitly that clean athletes shouldn't be punished for the actions of those who use drugs, and that's widely seen as a warning that Russia might not accept a blanket suspension.

MCEVERS: That's NPR's Corey Flintoff in Moscow.

Thanks so much.

FLINTOFF: Thank you Kelly. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.