Russia wants athletes to compete even if fine isn’t paid

MOSCOW (AP) — Russia edged closer to a new fight with World Athletics after the sports ministry said its leading athletes must be allowed to compete internationally even if a $5 million fine isn’t paid.

The Russian Athletics Federation, known as RusAF, was fined $10 million, with half of that sum suspended, in March by World Athletics after accepting a charge that fake documents were used under the previous management to give an athlete an alibi for missing a doping test.

It has to pay $5 million by July 1 for World Athletics to restart its “authorized neutral athlete” scheme allowing Russians to compete overseas while the country’s long-running doping saga is resolved.

Russians won six medals last year under a neutral flag at the world championships and include several gold medal contenders for the Tokyo Olympics in 2021.

“The Russian Sports Ministry considers it necessary to recall the unacceptable nature of restricting the rights of clean athletes to take part in competitions,” the ministry said on Thursday.

Suspending the neutral athlete status would be “a wrongful imposition of collective responsibility, which contradicts the spirit and principles of international law in the area of human rights.”

World Athletics said on Wednesday it will set up a new neutral athlete system for the coronavirus-shortened 2020 season “as soon as the fine has been paid.”

RusAF declined to comment when asked on Thursday whether it will pay the fine and if it has the money to do so. The board issued a statement last week calling on World Athletics to restore the neutral status system regardless of whether the fine is paid.

RusAF president Yevgeny Yurchenko did not dispute the conditions when World Athletics announced them in March, and said then that “maximum effort” would be made to pay the fine on time. The federation has often struggled for funding in recent years.

The Russian Olympic Committee said last week it will not put up money to pay the fine.

The dispute is a setback to Russia’s hopes of ending the suspension imposed on RusAF in 2015 over widespread doping.

Last year, World Athletics appeared to be moving closer to reinstating Russia fully. That was before the Athletics Integrity Unit charged RusAF and seven Russians, including the then-federation president and an athlete with neutral status, over their alleged involvement in the fake documents case.