Russia pleads with athletics chiefs to drop ban ahead of Rio call

Moscow (AFP) - Russia on Friday urged world athletics' governing body to drop its doping ban on the country's athletes ahead of a crunch decision on whether its track and field team can compete at the Olympics in Rio.

"In anticipation of your decision on June 17 in respect to Russian athletes, I would like to once again assure you that Russia fully supports fighting doping," Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko wrote in an open letter to IAAF president Sebastian Coe.

"Russia is doing everything possible to ensure our athletes are a part of clean and fair Olympic Games. In light of our efforts, I urge you to reconsider the ban on our athletes."

The 27-member IAAF Council is set to meet in Vienna later on Friday to decide whether to readmit Russia in time for its athletes to compete at the Rio Olympics after the country's track and field team was suspended in November over allegations of state-sponsored doping.

Mutko ran through a list of changes the Russian authorities say they have made since the ban was imposed -- from overhauling the sport's management to getting in foreign experts -- in a last-minute bid to sway the IAAF's vote.

These moves include handing over the planning of testing in the country to Britain's anti-doping agency and allowing non-Russian experts to collect samples that are tested abroad.

Mutko also said that Russia has agreed for any of its athletes competing at Rio to undergo a minimum of three extra drug tests ahead of the event.

"Russia has done everything that the IAAF independent commission has rightly asked of us in order to be reinstated to athletic competition," Mutko wrote.

"I hope that after witnessing us institute the changes you demanded, I have given you the reassurance that we should be readmitted."

But Mutko's claims ahead of the decision have already been undermined by a damning report from the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) released on Wednesday.

WADA's new report, compiled with the help of UK Anti-Doping, said hundreds of attempts to carry out drug tests on Russian athletes by the foreign experts drafted in had been thwarted.

Ahead of Friday's decision, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that "in the legal sphere, everything that is possible to defend the interests of our athletes and the Russian Olympic team is being done and will be done in the future".

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