By Mitch Phillips
MONACO (Reuters) - Russia's athletics ban will run into 2017 and may include the August world championships after a Task Force monitoring the nation's anti-doping programme refused on Thursday to put any dates on a "road map" for a return.
Rune Andersen, the Norwegian heading the Task Force, reported to the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Council there had been areas of progress but that many issues still needed clarifying in the new year.
The Russian Federation (RUSAF) was banned in November 2015 after an independent World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) probe exposed state-sponsored doping on a massive scale.
The suspension was upheld earlier this year, ruling almost all Russian track and field athletes out of the Rio Olympics, after Andersen said he had seen little progress.
This time there was a chink of light for the country.
"RUSAF has made further progress since June including anti-doping education modules and securing the co-operation of the Russian criminal authorities and parliament in criminalising the supply of doping products," Andersen told a news conference.
"But one of the key remaining issues is how to demonstrate the IAAF and RUSADA (Russian Anti-Doping) will be able to carry out testing without interference which is a key part of their reinstatement.
"The Task Force will go to Moscow in January to assess the response to part two of the McLaren report on Dec. 9 and to monitor progress."
Richard McLaren, co-author of the independent WADA report, is due to release the second part of his findings in London next week.
Andersen said the Task Force would report back to Council in February when it hoped to "identify a clear road map" for Russia's return but he declined to give any further likely timeframe.
Earlier on Thursday, Russia President Vladimir Putin used his state of the nation address to say he thought effective measures would be in place early in the new year.
"I am sure the so-called doping scandal will allow us to create the most advanced system of righting this evil in Russia," he said.
"I assume the national programme of counter-acting doping will be ready as early as the beginning of next year."
Thursday's Council meeting was the first part of a three-day IAAF session.
On Friday, the governing body will announce the male and female athletes of the year.
On Saturday, there will be a rare meeting of the IAAF Congress to discuss president Sebastian Coe's 'Time for Change' document which is already approved by the Council and will introduce a raft of measures to alter the way his organisation is run and policed.
The three-day meeting takes place against a backdrop of more allegations of massive corruption by Coe's predecessor Lamine Diack and his son Papa Massata Diack.
Both men are being investigated by French prosecutors for alleged corruption and money-laundering and have been accused of accepting bribes to cover up positive doping tests and influencing the award of hosting rights for major events.
"This is a pretty important week in the history of our sport," said Coe.
"I do not want this sport to return to the grotesque stories that even over the last few days we’ve been waking up to."
(Editing by Tony Jimenez)