No fewer than nineteen Russian athletes will compete as neutral athletes at the 2017 IAAF World championship, the biggest athletics meet, scheduled to start on Friday, in London.The Russian Athletics Federation was suspended almost two years ago by the IAAF over widespread state-sponsored doping, following an independent report from the World Anti-Doping Agency, WADA.
So, with their federation suspended, these Russians were required to apply to compete in the world championship in London as neutrals, but would first have to meet certain criteria as stated by the International Association of Athletics Federation, IAAF.
One of the IAAF criteria includes showing they are not directly implicated “in any way by their national federation’s failure to put in place adequate systems to protect and promote clean athletes”.
Consequently, the Doping Review Board, set up by the IAAF, agreed that those whose applications they received met these criteria required to compete as neutrals under the rules of the IAAF.
With the foregoing, Russian athletes in London will be barred from wearing their country’s symbols and colours.
Russian authorities, who have vehemently denied the existence of state-sponsored doping, have generally accepted athletes’ efforts to compete as neutrals, according to Reuters.
“Everyone understands who they are representing,” sports minister Pavel Kolobkov told reporters at Russia’s national athletics championships last week.
“It will be difficult for the athletes to compete because they are patriots.”
However, for some of the athletes set to compete, the opportunity to compete with their mates, is much more important than the colours they’d be competing in.
“I try not to think about it, not to give it any importance,” Sergey Shubenkov, defending 110m hurdles champion said.
World champion high jumper, Maria Lasitskene, also had something to say about not competing in the colours of her country.
“I’m competing as a neutral but what’s most important for me is to show results, to defend my title,” she said.