RUSSIA PLANS TO SEND ATHLETES AS NEUTRALS TO TOKYO 2020

BY LIAM MORGAN

 Acting Russian Athletics Federation (RusAF) President Yulia Tarasenko has claimed it is still possible for athletes from the country to be cleared to compete as neutrals at Tokyo 2020, despite the suspension of the governing body’s reinstatement process.

Tarasenko, who replaced Dmitry Shlyakhtin after he was among the RusAF officials charged with obstructing a doping investigation, revealed she was expecting Russian athletes to be given the opportunity to participate at next year’s Olympic Games.

World Athletics froze the reinstatement process for RusAF and warned it would consider expelling the organisation, following the “serious anti-doping breaches” alleged by the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU).

It also agreed that the current system of allowing Russian athletes to compete as Authorised Neutral Athletes should be put on hold.

Russia has since been handed a four-year ban by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), after an investigation found data from the Moscow Laboratory had been tampered with before it was handed over to the global watchdog.

The sanctions from WADA mean Russia’s flag will be banned from major events, including Tokyo 2020, while the country is also set to be stripped of World Championships it has been awarded. 

WADA ruled that Russian athletes who can prove they had no involvement in the doping scandal or the cover-up will be able to compete – a condition Tarasenko claims should apply to track and field competitors.

“It’s possible under a neutral flag, like with all other sports as far as I understand,” Tarasenko, whose appointment as acting President was met with criticism from some Russian athletes, said.

RusAF confirmed it had sent its response to the AIU by yesterday’s deadline, following the charges against officials at the governing body.

Shlyakhtin, appointed RusAF President in 2016, was suspended by the AIU for his involvement in the obstruction of a probe into whereabouts violations committed by world indoor high jump silver medallist Danil Lysenko.

He has been accused of using fake medical documents in an attempt to ensure Lysenko avoided punishment and of failing to cooperate with an investigation.

The AIU concluded, following a 15-month probe, that RusAF officials had been involved in the provision of false explanations and forged documents to the AIU in order to explain whereabouts failures by the athlete.

Along with Shlyakhtin, the RusAF executive director Alexander Parkin, the athlete and his coach Evgeniy Zagorulko have also been charged with “tampering and/or complicity” under the anti-doping rules and also been provisionally suspended.

A total of seven individuals associated with RusAF are among those charged by the AIU.

RusAF Board member and President of the Moscow Regional Athletics Federation Artur Karamyan, Elena Orlova, a senior administrator, and anti-doping coordinator Elena Ikonnikova have also been suspended.

The AIU declined to comment when contacted by insidethegames about the response from RusAF.