The Russian Athletics Federation (RusAF) has been given a major boost in its campaign to be readmitted to World Athletics with the new administration being told that it if fulfils its promises then the process could begin as early as next March.
RusAF only narrowly avoided being expelled by the world governing at its previous Council meeting in July but it has been given an opportunity to end its five-year suspension.
The atmosphere at the latest two-day World Athletics Council meeting, which concluded today, was much more positive following the election of a new RusAF President, Peter Ivanov, on Monday (November 30).
Rune Andersen, head of the World Athletics Taskforce on restoring Russia's membership, held brief talks with Ivanov yesterday, describing them as "open and constructive".
"If he puts the necessary commitment and resources behind the project, and wins the support for that effort of RusAF’s key stakeholders in Moscow and in the regions, then the Taskforce and the international experts stand ready to help him achieve the reinstatement of RusAF’s membership of World Athletics and the re-introduction of its athletes to international competition," Andersen said.
Under a revised timetable adopted in September, RusAF must meet the deadline of March 1 next year and continue to pay the costs associated with the reinstatement process or the Council decision from July this year - to propose that Congress expels RusAF from membership of World Athletics - will come into effect.
The initial target for Ivanov and the new management team at RusAF will be the reintroduction of the Authorised Neutral Athletes (ANA) scheme, which is currently suspended.
It means that Russian athletes are unable to compete in any international competition, even under an independent flag.
But Andersen has offered them hope that the scheme will be reintroduced in March if RusAF shows it is making progress.
The Council will consider whether to allow Russian athletes to compete again as ANA in international competitions, including allowing up to 10 to participate in World Athletics Series events and the re-arranged Olympic Games in Tokyo next year, at its next meeting.
That decision, though, could be taken earlier if the Taskforce so recommends, based on the progress made by RusAF to that date.
"I can only repeat what I said earlier: if RusAF implements the strategic plan, then the fulfillment of the conditions will be assessed by the working group, which will then transmit its recommendation to the Council," Andersen said.
"This can be done before March 1.
"March 1 is the deadline for submitting the plan to us.
"There is still a lot of time before March 1, so they can have time to provide it.
"I spoke with Ivanov yesterday via video.
"We hope to meet in person as soon as possible, when possible."
RusAF was first suspended by the International Association of Athletics Federations - since rebranded as World Athletics - in November 2015 following allegations of state-sponsored doping.
The suspension has since been extended 15 times.
RusAF came close to being expelled permanently in September after it emerged there had been an attempt by the former leadership of the Federation, then led by Dmitry Shlyakhtin, to cover-up an anti-doping investigation into Danil Lysenko, the 2018 world indoor high jump champion.
It led to Shlyakhtin being charged by the Athletics Integrity Unit and having to step down.
World Athletics only decided not to expel RusAF following the late intervention of Russia's Sports Minister Oleg Matytsin, who promised that the country was committed to solving a number of issues, including an "unconditional" promise to pay an outstanding fine of $6.31 million (£4.72 million/€5.21 million) by August 15.
The independent experts appointed by World Athletics to work with RusAF are expected to be crucial in the process if Russia is to be allowed to return to international competition in time for next summer.
Margarita Pakhnotskaya, the former deputy director general of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency, and Vladas Stankevicius, a London-based Russian-speaking change management professional and lawyer whose experience includes being director of compliance and ethics for oil firm BP, will be based in Moscow and supported by former World Anti-Doping Agency international expert Peter Nicholson working remotely.
"Well-qualified international experts have been appointed who will work on the ground with RusAF in Russia, helping it to draw up a detailed strategic and operational plan with clear objectives and timelines," Andersen said.
"A new framework agreement has been put in place that sets out how the Taskforce and the international experts will help RusAF to finalise and implement that plan, and that commits RusAF to continuing to pay the costs incurred by World Athletics in the process.
"The international experts have already begun working with the senior RusAF management team, and have reported that that team has been very responsive and constructive in its approach."