‘Clean’ Russian athletes can compete in Rio Olympics as ‘neutrals’

Track and field stars who can prove they are not tainted by country’s doping scandal given go-ahead by IAAF to take part in Games

Russian athletes who can prove they are untainted by the country’s doping scandal were on Thursday given the go-ahead by the IAAF to compete at the Rio Olympics but as neutrals and not under their national flag.

The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) council decided last week to maintain the suspension of Russia after findings of drug test violations, including ignored positives and altered test results.

But clean athletes have now been offered an olive branch – under certain conditions.

“If there are any individual athletes who can clearly and convincingly show that they are not tainted by the Russian system because they have been outside the country and subject to other effective anti-doping systems, then they should be able to apply for permission to compete in international competitions, not for Russia but as a neutral athlete,” said an IAAF statement.

The ban on Russian athletes began last November on findings from world anti-doping organisation Wada’s independent commission into state-sponsored doping in the country’s track and field set-up.

But it has caused deep divisions in the sport ahead of the Rio Olympics which get under way on August 5.

Russian pole vault legend Yelena Isinbayeva had threatened to sue the IAAF over the ban while International Olympic Committee chief Thomas Bach said on Tuesday that any Russian athletes who pass an individual test by the IAAF could compete under their own nation’s flag at the Olympic Games.

IAAF president Sebastian Coe said it had been crucial to agree on guidelines with the European championships due to start in Amsterdam on July 6.

“[We] have worked extremely hard to get to where we are today, just days away from the European Championships,” said Coe.

“We know there are some Russian athletes considering applying to compete in international competitions under this new rule so it is important they are all clear about the criteria under which their application will be reviewed.”

On Wednesday, Wada chief Craig Reedie had said tough measures such as banning Russian competitors from international events were vital to showing the world’s clean athletes that dope cheats will not be tolerated.

He backed an IAAF proposal to have Russian athletes apply for reinstatement on a case-by-case basis based upon testing from credible programmes from outside Russia – a move which could open a path for doping whistle-blower Yulia Stepanova to compete in Rio.

Wada awaits the results of its independent McLaren investigation, which began last month and examines further allegations of doping in Russia.

Despite the latest IAAF move, there was still more doping misery for Russia on Thursday when it was revealed their weightlifters face being kicked out of the Rio Olympics for repeated doping violations.

Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus are to be suspended for one year by the International Weightlifting Federation over failed retests from the 2008 and 2012 Games in Beijing and London.