MOSCOW — IOC President Thomas Bach said Saturday he is confident Russia will enact the necessary anti-doping reforms in time for its track and field athletes to be cleared to compete in next year’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.Bach gave his backing to Russian Olympic Committee head Alexander Zhukov, who has been tasked with overseeing reforms to Russia’s athletics federation, anti-doping agency and national drug-testing lab, all of which were implicated in a sharply critical World Anti-Doping Agency independent commission report Monday.The IOC announced the agreement with Zhukov a day after Russia was provisionally suspended from international competition, including the Olympics, by the International Association of Athletics Federations.“We are confident that the initiatives being proposed by the ROC, with the responsible international organizations, WADA and the IAAF, will ensure compliance as soon as possible in order to provide participation of the clean Russian athletes at the Olympic Games,” Bach said in a statement. TweetPinShare0 Shares The Russian Olympic body “will coordinate all efforts in Russia to address the issues mentioned” in the WADA report, the IOC said, adding that all athletes, coaches and officials who are accused of involvement in doping will be punished.“All doped athletes will be sanctioned. … All clean athletes will be protected,” the statement said.Bach and Zhukov met Thursday at IOC headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland. Zhukov is also a senior Russian political figure and ally of President Vladimir Putin.“The Russian Olympic Committee is determined that the clean athletes should compete in the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro,” Zhukov said in the IOC statement. “Anyone found guilty of using illegal drugs or anyone who facilitated or was complicit in their use must be punished.”Monday’s report by the WADA panel accused the Russian federation’s coaches and officials of operating a vast doping program with state backing, while the Russian anti-doping agency, known as Rusada, and the national lab were alleged to have covered up failed drug tests by Russian athletes.A crucial meeting is scheduled Sunday of the Russian athletics federation leadership to discuss the fallout of Russia’s exclusion from competition. It will take place at the Sports Ministry and will be attended by Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko in attendance, federation spokeswoman Alla Glushchenko told The Associated Press.Mutko has spoken of his readiness to make personnel changes to ensure Russia can return to competition for the Olympics. To “fire everyone” would be an acceptable price to pay, he told reporters Friday.Also Saturday, the head of the federation said he could appeal the ban to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.The track federation’s acting president, Vadim Zelichenok, said Russia is focused on finding “a rational compromise” to have the ban lifted but could appeal to CAS if the IAAF “tells us clearly that it doesn’t accept any of our arguments.”He added that lengthy court proceedings might actually reduce Russia’s hopes of having its ban lifted in time for the Rio Olympics, which are just nine months away.Zelichenok also told Russian media he had considered resigning, but suggested it would not be of use since any successor would not necessarily be better. Under federation rules, the successor would be chosen from among the six vice-presidents rather than being an outsider with no links to the doping scandal.The European track and field association also confirmed Russia was banned from its competitions. European Athletics said in a statement that it would formally notify Russia of the suspension Saturday. The first competition Russia would miss is the European cross country championships in France next month.JAMES ELLINGWORTH, AP Sports Writer__This story has been corrected to show that the European cross country championships will be held in France next month.A car is driven past the Anti-Doping Center, Russia’s national laboratory for sports drug testing in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2015. Russian track and field athletes could be banned from next year’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro after a devastatingly critical report accused the country’s government of complicity in widespread doping and cover-ups. The World Anti-Doping Agency commission set up to investigate doping in Russia said even the country’s intelligence service, the FSB, was involved, spying on Moscow’s anti-doping lab, including during last year’s Olympics in Sochi. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
Against the backdrop of celebrations marking Michael Schumacher’s 50th birthday on Thursday, the medical condition of Formula One’s most successful driver remains just as fiercely guarded by his close family.More than five years after a near-fatal brain injury in a skiing accident, the seven-time F1 champion continues to be cared for in total secrecy at home in the quiet Swiss town of Gland on the shores of Lake Geneva. He has been there since being transferred from a hospital in September 2014.”You can be sure that he is in the very best of hands and that we are doing everything humanly possible to help him,” Schumacher’s family said in a rare statement Wednesday. “Please understand if we are following Michael’s wishes and keeping such a sensitive subject as health, as it has always been, in privacy.”It was while skiing with his teenage son Mick in the French Alps at Meribel that Schumacher fell on December 29, 2013. He hit the right side of his head on a rock, splitting open his helmet. Doctors at Grenoble hospital removed blood clots, but others were left untouched because too deeply embedded in his brain.With unsourced stories abounding, updates on his condition went from scarce to non-existent as his family closed ranks around him . But the family understands the level of devotion toward Schumacher from his legions of fans.Happy Birthday, #MichaelSchumacher – You are a hero and I wish you all the best on this special day! pic.twitter.com/WEOTYe6T0wadvertisementLothar Matthäus (@LMatthaeus10) January 3, 2019Coinciding with his birthday, the family released the Official Michael Schumacher App offering a virtual museum tour of his greatest achievements.”The app is another milestone in our effort to do justice to him and you, his fans, by celebrating his accomplishments,” the statement said.Many of those accomplishments were with Ferrari, where the German driving ace won five titles. The Italian manufacturer is honoring his 50th with a special museum exhibition of his achievements at its Maranello headquarters in northern Italy.Today we join the sporting world in sending our best wishes to Michael Schumacher on his 50th birthday. Laureus World Sports Awards winner and legend #KeepFightingMichael pic.twitter.com/6pz0oTAc5iLaureus (@LaureusSport) January 3, 2019His stature is Ferrari folklore is immense, while his impact on F1 is unparalleled with perhaps the exception of the late Brazilian great Ayrton Senna.Our champ turns 50 today. We’re all with you Michael #KeepFighting pic.twitter.com/hN4n8Br1apScuderia Ferrari (@ScuderiaFerrari) January 3, 2019Wishing a Happy 50th Birthday to the one and only Michael Schumacher.#KeepFightingMichael pic.twitter.com/uPX0iJDcKeWILLIAMS RACING (@WilliamsRacing) January 3, 2019Schumacher’s winners’ aura was perhaps unfairly viewed from the outside as cold and distant, when in essence he was incredibly appreciative of those he worked closely with. In 2000, he delivered Ferrari from years of frustration with a first world title since Jody Scheckter in 1979.All of us at McLaren are sending our best wishes to Michael @Schumacher and his friends and family as he celebrates his 50th birthday today. #KeepFightingMichael #Michael50 pic.twitter.com/K47xMQy1A3McLaren (@McLarenF1) January 3, 2019We join the whole of the #F1 family in sending Michael @Schumacher our very best wishes on his 50th birthday#KeepFightingMichael #Michael50 pic.twitter.com/jrewTNipSbFormula 1 (@F1) January 3, 2019Happy birthday champ. Wishing you the very best on your 50th. #KeepFightingMichael #Michael50 pic.twitter.com/7J4c4OZLm9Renault Sport F1 (@RenaultSportF1) January 3, 201950 years ago, a star was born. A star who shaped and changed @F1 forever. Who broke records, redefined excellence and helped lay the foundations for our future success.We’d like to send our very best wishes to Michael @Schumacher on his 50th birthday. #KeepFighting #Michael50 pic.twitter.com/247WKprWCDMercedes-AMG F1 (@MercedesAMGF1) January 3, 2019Happy 50th birthday, Goat!Stay strong and keep fighting!! pic.twitter.com/kHI3micbGhNico Hülkenberg (@HulkHulkenberg) January 3, 2019At the time, Schumacher spoke about the emotions he felt as the team celebrated wildly around him.”Those faces. Bright eyes everywhere and everyone cheering,” Schumacher said in recognition. “I would have loved to hug and kiss each and every one of them.”Schumacher won the next four F1 titles – even securing the 2002 title an astonishing six races before the end – on his way to a record 91 GP wins. His speed, consistency and work ethic were all unmatched.”He was winning races sometimes he shouldn’t have won,” said F1’s managing director Ross Brawn, who worked with Schumacher on all seven F1 titles. “He just had a majesty about him in that period.”advertisementDuring Schumacher’s glory years, F1 even rivalled soccer as the No. 1 sport in Italy – quite an achievement. Memorabilia from those halcyon days, including cars and race-worn helmets, has been on display in the German city of Cologne at The Michael Schumacher Private Collection since June of last year.”Michael can be proud of what he has achieved, and so are we,” his family’s statement said. “We want to remember and celebrate his victories, his records and his jubilation.”Schumacher has not been seen in public since his accident.Brawn and Jean Todt – the head of motorsport’s governing body FIA – are very close friends and have visited him at his Swiss home. Brawn reiterated the need for Schumacher to be shielded from the media spotlight.”I am constantly in touch with (Schumacher’s wife) Corinna and I totally agree with their decision,” Brawn said. “Michael has always been a very private person.”The exhibitions in Cologne and Maranello are initiatives of the Keep Fighting Foundation, launched by Schumacher’s family and of which Brawn and Todt are trustees.RISING STARIt was then-Ferrari general manager Todt who persuaded Schumacher to join him there after world titles with Benetton in 1994 and 1995, where he had developed a dazzlingly successful rapport with Brawn.Todt rarely speaks publicly about Schumacher, out of respect, but revealed he watched the Brazilian GP with Schumacher at his Switzerland home in November.Brawn spotted the young Schumacher’s brazen talent during the World Sportscar Championship.”He was doing lap times on less fuel than the others, and beating them by a mile,” Brawn said, underling how even then Schumacher was “clearly incredibly quick.”They started working together at Benetton in 1991. A year later, Schumacher won his first F1 race at the Belgian GP and his astonishing career took off.”In ’94 when he won the first championship he was incredible,” Brawn said.Given his age and lack of experience at the time, Schumacher’s breakthrough Benetton days were arguably equal to his stellar time with Ferrari.”It’s difficult to define a peak,” Brawn told F1’s official podcast.HAMILTON CLOSING INFive-time F1 champion Lewis Hamilton has Schumacher’s records within his sights, and age relatively on his side.Given that the British driver is contracted with Mercedes for at least this season and next, he has a strong chance of equaling Schumacher’s seven titles and number of race wins.The 33-year-old Hamilton has won 73 races – 18 behind but with a slightly higher win ratio than Schumacher had.Hamilton, arguably F1’s greatest ever talent in qualifying, has eclipsed Schumacher’s record for pole positions: 83-68.They are level for most podiums in a season with 17. But Schumacher leads him in terms of consecutive podiums finishes overall 19-16, as well as fastest laps with a staggering 77-41.Schumacher also holds the F1 record for most wins at a single race: eight at the French GP.RISING SONHaving raced against Schumacher in F1 and then replaced him at Mercedes, Hamilton could well end up driving against Schumacher’s son.advertisementAll eyes will be on Mick Schumacher this year as he competes in F2 with the Prema Racing team.The 19-year-old Schumacher won last year’s F3 championship in style with eight wins and seven pole positions.It was another racing title for the Schumacher family, and maybe not the last.If Schumacher wins the F2 championship in 2019 then he, like other drivers such as Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, could well be fast-tracked into F1.