Russian athlete Mariya Lasitskene has won world high jump titles competing as an Authorised Neutral Athlete ©Getty Images

The World Athletics Council today agreed to reinstate the Authorised Neutral Athlete (ANA) scheme, suspended since last March, allowing individual Russian competitors to qualify for this summer’s scheduled Tokyo 2020 Games.

The scheme - which allows Russian athletes who meet anti-doping criteria to take part in international competition - was suspended last year following the latest scandal involving the Russian Athletics Federation (RusAF), which has been banned since November 2015 following the revelations of state-sponsored doping.

Rune Andersen, the World Athletics' Russia Taskforce chairman, said that Russian athletes would be able to apply for ANA status immediately, but there will be a cap of 10 athletes for the next Olympics and World Athletics Championships, with that figure to be reviewed at the end of the year.

He added that this was dependent on RusAF continuing to satisfy the requirements agreed for their eventual return.

RusAF faced expulsion from World Athletics last year for obstructing an anti-doping investigation into world indoor high jump champion Danil Lysenko and failing to pay outstanding fines.

After missing its July 1 payment deadline RusAF stood on the brink, but a last-minute intervention by Russian Sports Minister Oleg Matytsin, who made an "unconditional" offer to pay the outstanding fine of $6.31 million (£4.52 million/€5.28 million), saved them.

On March 1 this year a final plan for the reinstatement of the RusAF was unanimously approved by the World Athletics Council following the recommendation of Andersen.

World Athletics President Sebastian Coe has today presided over a Council meeting at which the Authorised Neutral Athletes scheme, suspended since last March, has been reinstated ©Getty Images
World Athletics President Sebastian Coe has today presided over a Council meeting at which the Authorised Neutral Athletes scheme, suspended since last March, has been reinstated ©Getty Images

"In my report to the Council today I confirmed that RusAF has now started with its reinstatement plan," Andersen said.

"I emphasised in my report, and Council members clearly agreed, that getting the plan into place was just a start.

"It won’t mean anything unless RusAF now cheerfully and consistently completes all of the enormous works that are required to lift the ban and to put in place the enduring change in culture that Russian athletics so desperately needs.

"The President was clear that he wants the Taskforce to monitor that work carefully and to report back to Council immediately if the expected progress is not achieved.

"The Taskforce is well equipped to do this because the plan includes a detailed map for implementation including milestones and deadlines for each objective.

"In addition we now have international experts on the ground in Russia to act as our eyes and ears and to report back if the plan is not being implemented as RusAF has promised.

"In the meantime the Council has accepted the Taskforce recommendation to allow Authorised Neutral Athletes to compete again in international competitions subject to a cap of 10 for the Olympic Ganes and for any World Athletics Series events.

"As a result of that decision  the Doping Review Board will start accepting applications for ANA status immediately.

"Council was clear that the ANA programme was dependent on RusAF continuing to meet all the milestones set out in the reinstatement plan."

World Athletics President Sebastian Coe warned at the time that the initial approval was "not the end but the beginning of a long journey, with an incredible amount of work for RusAF to do to rebuild trust."

Today he commented: "The decision we made about ANA was contingent on the quality of the plan RusAF offered.

"The Taskforce has given confidence to the Council that that reinstatement plan is substantive and will take us in the right direction.

"And so the decision today to re-implement the ANA status is a good one and we will try and do that as swiftly, and as sensibly, but as carefully as we can."

Reflecting upon the original creation of the ANA scheme earlier this month in a Sports Law Q&A podcast, Coe told British lawyer Jonathan Taylor: "I didn’t for all sorts of reasons want to visit the sins of the parents upon the children in our Russia challenge.

"What in simple terms does that mean?

"If I could identify clean athletes that were untainted but in a tainted system then my responsibility was to try and find a construct that would allow them to compete.

"That’s where we got our Authorised Neutral Athletes from, and many of them have maintained international competition in the last few years.

"They don’t have the panoply of uniforms and national anthems but most of them are just relieved to be competing."

One Russian track and field athlete was able to compete at the Rio 2016 Olympics under the recently instituted ANA scheme - long jumper Darya Klishina.