Sebastian Coe discussed the absence of Russians at the upcoming World Championships

World Athletics president Sebastian Coe has claimed it would have been “inconceivable” for Russians to compete in this week’s World Championships amid the ongoing military operation in Ukraine.

Coe was speaking at a press conference on Thursday ahead of the competition that will start on Friday and run until July 24 in Eugene, Oregon.

World Athletics banned Russian athletes at the end of February, following an International Olympic Committee (IOC) recommendation that has been criticized by the likes of Olympic champion high jumper Maria Lasitskene.

The three-time world-champion wrote an unanswered open letter to IOC president Thomas Bach last month while also blasting Coe for his stance on her country, yet Coe stressed that this has not changed. 

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“It was made from a very clear standpoint, and that was about the integrity of competition,” Coe said regarding the original decision.

“It would have been inconceivable to have a World Championships here with athletes from Belarus and Russia,” he added, calling them “two aggressive nations who have walked into an independent state.”

Coe said that World Athletics was among the first federations to act on the IOC’s advice and vowed that it won’t alter its position “for the foreseeable future.”

He then said that receiving an update from the task force that is monitoring how Russia is complying with the roadmap for reinstatement following a doping scandal that “I sort of feel like it’s Season 17, Box Set 126.”

Russians had previously been performing under neutral status or for the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) team at competitions such as the Olympics due to sanctions stemming from the scandal, and the results of an independent audit of the Russian federation will be presented at a World Athletics meeting in November. That means Russian athletes are set to remain banned until at least that date. 

That is also when changes to rules on transgender athlete participation will be considered too, with Coe having already shown support for action from the likes of global swimming counterpart FINA which in June banned all trans athletes that had taken part in any stage of the male puberty process while vowing to create a new ‘open category’.

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“When push comes to shove, if it’s a judgment between inclusion and fairness, we will always fall down on the side of fairness – that for me is non-negotiable,” Coe vowed at the time when reacting to the development.

On Thursday, he reiterated this by noting that though inclusivity “has really been a watch word,” “the balance between inclusivity and fairness will always, in my view, fall now on the side of fairness.”

This could mean that tighter restrictions from World Athletics are on the horizon, with Coe having also previously said that the organization believes “that biology trumps gender”.

“We will continue to review our regulations in line with this. We will follow the science,” he also promised. 

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