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‘Inconceivable’ that Russian, Belarusian athletes compete – Coe

World Athletics president Sebastian Coe insisted Thursday that the ban on athletes from “aggressor nations” Russia and Belarus was justified by the potential hardships posed to Ukrainian rivals following the invasion of their country.

Coe, speaking following a meeting of the council of track and field’s governing body and a week before the World Indoor Championships in Belgrade, said the decisions taken were “not easy”.

“None of us on the council undertook this decision lightly. None of us came into sport to at the outset to prevent athletes from competing, but this is of such a different scale and such a challenge,” he said.

“The council was unanimous about the view that it would be inconceivable to have athletes from the Ukraine being excluded for very obvious reasons, unable to compete, train in an environment that is beyond compare and to have the athletes from two aggressor nations being given the full panoply.”

Coe added: “Here, the answer here is very clear. Everybody is now doing what they can to stand shoulder by shoulder and sport needs to do that.”

World Athletics last week banned all athletes, support personnel and officials from Russia and Belarus for the foreseeable future, with immediate effect, in line with a host of sporting bodies.

Turning to the taskforce charged with monitoring the ban on Russia over state-sponsored doping in place since 2015, its head Rune Andersen said the body would “continue its mandate” to avoid a detrimental global fall-out.

“The taskforce is concerned that without its work and without the work of international experts that there is a significant risk that some or all of the progress may be lost and backsliding might occur,” Andersen said.

“If that was to happen, the culture of change that RUSAF (the Russian athletics federation) has been cultivating would be undermined.

“Ultimately it would be detrimental to the interests of clean Russian athletes, the athletes they compete against and the integrity of future international competitions.”

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