Moscow - Russia is making efforts to reform after its damaging doping scandal, according to the head of the IAAF taskforce set up to determine whether the country's ban from global track and field should be lifted.
"The Russians have recognized that there is an issue, a problem, and they are trying to fix it," Norwegian anti-doping expert Rune Andersen told The Associated Press on Tuesday.
Russia was suspended by the IAAF — track and field's world governing body — from international competition, including the Olympics, in November after a report by a World Anti-Doping Agency panel detailed a state-sponsored doping program.
Andersen, who heads the five-person IAAF taskforce, held meetings Monday and Tuesday in Moscow with Russian government and sports officials.
"There is an open and frank discussion," he said. "There are no obstructions to what we're trying to do. Everyone wants to find solutions to the problems that Russian athletics has had today."
Andersen added that "several" more meetings are planned with "our Russian friends" before the taskforce reports back to the International Association of Athletics Federations in March.
In order for Russia to be readmitted in time for this year's Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, the IAAF has said the country must investigate doping cases, remove any officials or coaches who were involved in drug use or cover-ups and establish "a strong anti-doping culture."
The Russian athletics federation is due to elect a new president Saturday as part of its own reform program. The frontrunner is longtime general secretary Mikhail Butov, who also sits on the IAAF's ruling council.
"We have talked about the structure, that's part of the verification criteria, and of course that will be part of the discussion when we move on to this, but the new leadership of ARAF will be part of our discussion partners in the future," Andersen told the AP.
He would not comment on whether Butov was a suitable candidate despite having held a senior role at a time when many of the most serious accusations against the federation were made.
The elections end an 11-month tenure by acting president Vadim Zelichenok, who replaced longtime federation chief Valentin Balakhnichev last year. Balakhnichev was banned for life by the IAAF last week following allegations of involvement in a plot to extort money from athletes seeking to avoid doping bans.
Andersen declined to say whether any new cases of malpractice beyond those revealed in the WADA commission's report had been brought to light in the course of the talks with the Russian officials.
He also refused to be drawn on whether the taskforce would visit the central Russian city of Saransk, home to a training centre for race-walkers which has seen over 30 positive drug tests in recent years among its athletes, including several Olympic medallists.
The Russian athletics federation has been ordered to cease working with the centre, where staff were accused in the WADA report of obstructing drug testing.