The IAAF inspection team monitoring Russia’s anti-doping reforms will report back in late March, meaning the national track team is set to miss the world indoor championships in the United States.
The March 17-20 championships in Portland, Oregon, are the first major competition that Russia would miss under its provisional suspension from the IAAF.
The indefinite ban was imposed last week after Russia was accused by an independent World-Anti-Doping Agency commission of running a state-sponsored doping program.
Russian officials had said they hoped to return to competition in less than three months.
But the IAAF said Thursday it has asked its five-person inspection team to begin its verification work no later than Jan. 1 and report back “at the earliest” on March 27 — a week after the Portland championships end.
The panel will assess the reforms to clean up the Russian athletics federation, known as ARAF.
“For the protection of all clean athletes there cannot be any timeframe for ARAF’s return until we are assured all criteria have been fully met and will continue to be met forever,” IAAF President Sebastian Coe said in the IAAF statement.
Speaking to The Associated Press, ARAF general secretary Mikhail Butov conceded that Russia was now unlikely to take part at the world indoor championships.
“It certainly seems as if that’s the case,” he said. “So far, it’s hard to say.”
The verification process will be discussed by the IAAF’s governing council next Thursday in Monaco, with follow-up consultations with WADA.
The world indoors are the biggest track competition that Russia could miss ahead of the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in August, where Russia’s track and field team will be ineligible to compete unless its suspension is lifted in time.
The IAAF also spelled out a list of principles that will form the foundation of any assessment of whether Russia is fit to return to global track and field.
“The verification criteria must be robust otherwise the inspection process will fail,” Coe said. “Repeating past failings which have brought ARAF to their current position is not an option. To succeed this process must guarantee a level playing field and thereby re-establish confidence in the integrity of competition.”
The measures include punishment of athletes, coaches and officials found to be involved in doping, and a request for the Russian government to criminalize the distribution and trafficking of performance-enhancing drugs.
The IAAF also calls for protecting future whistleblowers and ending the climate of “omerta,” or silence in covering doping. Evidence compiled by Russian athletes and anti-doping staff, including undercover video recordings, formed a large part of the material in last week’s WADA commission report alleging systematic doping.
Butov said Russia is unlikely to dispute the basic principles of the assessment criteria.
“Regarding the contents, I personally don’t see any serious problems,” he said.
Butov, who is a member of the IAAF council, said he would push for Russia to be given more specific targets to achieve, rather than relying on inspectors’ subjective assessment.
The inspection team is headed by Norwegian anti-doping expert Rune Andersen and also includes four IAAF council members from Canada, Italy, Namibia and Norfolk Island.
Under the terms of the suspension, Russian athletes can only compete in domestic events within Russia.
A marathon runner, Viktor Ugarov, became the first person to be punished for breaking Russia’s ban after he won a race in Japan on Sunday, two days after the suspension was imposed. The IAAF said Tuesday he had been disqualified from the race and faced further punishment.