The IAAF has said it will give Russian officials until the end of the week to formally respond to allegations from a newly released report. A commission described the situation in Russia as 'state-sponsored' doping.
Sebastian Coe, the president of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) told reporters during a conference call on Monday that he had initiated the process of considering imposing sanctions on Russia over the findings of the World Anti-Doping Agency's (WADA) independent commission.
"I asked the Russian Federation to report back to us by the end of the week," Coe said. "I want an explanation for the allegations that have been made today. That will allow my council to make a judgment about what the next step is."
"We will act very quickly," he added. "It could lead to a provisional suspension." At the same time he noted that "my instinct remains to seek engagement rather than isolation."
Damning independent commision report
Coe's remarks came just hours after the independent commission appointed by WADA released a report that found a "deeply rooted culture of cheating" in Russian athletics, and called on the IAAF to suspend the country's athletes from competition.
The commission also recommended lifetime bans for five athletes, four coaches and one doctor - all of them Russian. They included the women's 800 meters Olympic champion Mariya Savinova and the bronze medalist Ekaterina Poistogova.
"It's worse than we thought," Dick Pound, the chairman of the commission said as he unveiled the report at a press conference in Geneva on Monday. "It may be a residue of the old Soviet Union system."
The report cited evidence of bribery, government-backed corruption, doping and hiding positive drug tests to allow offenders to compete at previous Olympic Games. It also identified what it described as systematic failures at the IAAF.
More to come
However, the report did not go into possible complicity of senior IAAF officials like Lamine Diack, its former president who was detained by French authorities last week and charged with corruption involving Russian doping cases. The three-member commission is expected to report on this in the next few weeks.
If suspended by the IAAF, Russian athletes could be prevented from competing in track and field events at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
The head of the Russian Federation has disputed the commission's claim that systematic doping was being carried out in the country.
"It should be proven that any violations were the fault of the federation and not individual sportspeople," Vadim Zelechenok was quoted by the "Guardian" newspaper as telling "R-Sport."
"We should be given a chance to clear our names," Zelechenok said.
The doping allegations first came to light almost a year ago in a documentary broadcast by Germany's ARD public television channel.
pfd/jm (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)