Disgraced Olympic steroid cheat Nadzeya Ostapchuk could compete against Valerie Adams as early as August's world championships in Moscow.
That prospect has Minister of Sport Murray McCully and a number of New Zealand's top sporting administrators questioning the continued silence of global athletics body, the IAAF, over whether it will extend the lenient 12-month international ban placed on Ostapchuk by her native Belarus.
McCully, who is also a board member of the World Anti-Doping Agency, says the IAAF's delay over reviewing Ostapchuk - who is almost one-quarter of the way through her London 2012 sanction - undermines public confidence in the anti-doping system.
"In this case, the delay has been unsatisfactory," McCully told the Sunday Star-Times. "Where there is a significant delay, it would be reasonable to expect the organisation to explain why. A delay that is not explained is likely to undermine confidence in the process.
"The current ruling, that she [Ostapchuk] had no significant fault in this case, is why she has been given only a one-year sanction.
"I, like many, view that outcome with some scepticism.
"This is a regrettable and unacceptable delay from the IAAF. I have no doubt that WADA will be prompting the IAAF to announce its decision.
"The New Zealand public has an absolute right to know what is going on. Aspects of this particular case will do nothing to build public confidence."
Over the past two months the IAAF has dismissed Sunday Star-Times requests for a progress report.
"The IAAF does not comment on ongoing disciplinary cases and Ostapchuk is still an ongoing case," IAAF communications director Nick Davies said.
Athletics New Zealand chief executive Scott Newman is also waiting for news from the IAAF.
"In the last couple of days we have sent something through, asking for an update ourselves," Newman said. "There's a list on the IAAF website of banned athletes. The last list is current of November 2 and she [Ostapchuk] is not listed as a banned athlete."
Alex Baumann, chief executive of High Performance Sport New Zealand, described the lack of progress as "bizarre".
"It is quite bizarre that nothing's really come out of this," Baumann said. "You're pushing them but I'm surprised there hasn't been more media asking what's happening and moving it forward."
Graham Steel, head of Drug Free Sport New Zealand, said that although he thought the delay was unusual, he was not surprised.
However, Steel said further delay could trigger a situation allowing Ostapchuk to compete against Adams at the 2013 world championships - while an appeal over her ban is conducted in the background.
"The timeframe is longer than we would expect," Steel said. "It's unusual. Delays, from time to time, can be justified, but as a principle, these matters should be dealt with expeditiously.
"The danger is that the later this goes on, the closer it gets to her return.
"Any appeal wouldn't necessarily occur immediately so the ban may be completed, but the process might still be ongoing."
New Zealand Olympic Committee secretary general Kereyn Smith said her organisation is "monitoring progress and await the outcome with interest". The International Olympic Committee said its role in the saga was complete, having "disqualified, withdrawn the medal from, and excluded Ostapchuk from the London Games".
Meanwhile WADA confirmed it has "been in contact with the IAAF over this case".
"The results management process has yet to be completed by the organisation responsible for this - the IAAF," senior manager of WADA communications Terence O'Rorke said.
Adams was on a flight back to her Swiss training base yesterday and was unavailable for comment. Her manager, Nick Cowan, said Adams awaited clarity on the situation.
"Valerie understands there is a process to go through. However, the length of time this process is taking is frustrating," Cowan said.
"Valerie's preparation for next year's world championships has already begun. We will be shocked if Ostapchuk competes at that event.
"It would be disappointing for the sport of athletics."
Last week the IOC endorsed a proposal by WADA to double serious doping bans from two to four years.
- Sunday Star Times
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