Coe backs Stepanova's bid

AMSTERDAM • Yuliya Stepanova's international comeback may have ended with a torn foot ligament and disqualification, but the Russian doping whistle-blower leaves with Sebastian Coe's blessings and is seemingly ever closer to a place at the Rio Olympics.

Stepanova served a two-year doping ban before she and her husband Vitaly Stepanov made startling revelations about state-sponsored doping in Russian athletics.

Associated, widespread corruption with the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) plunged the body into its worst-ever crisis, just as Coe was installed as president in place of the now-disgraced Senegalese Lamine Diack.

Russian athletes were suspended from international competition in November and now face a raft of criteria before even being in with a chance of competing in Rio.

But Stepanova, now exiled in the United States, was handed the chance to compete in the European Championships as a "neutral" as recompense for her speaking out on the systemic doping at the heart of Russian athletics.

Stepping onto the track in Amsterdam was a major breakthrough on her road to redemption and her presence was widely hailed.

Coe met Stepanova on Thursday and asked the 30-year-old to share her experiences and views with the IAAF Values Commission, which holds its first meeting later this year.

"I want young athletes to feel strong about decisions they make and the people they have around them to help them see the future," the Briton said.

Stepanova praised the IAAF for the support it had offered her.

"I hope what you did for me gives permission for more athletes. If you want to do something right, people in the world will support you to do the right thing."

A scan confirmed that she sustained a partial rupture of the plantar fascia, a ligament in the right foot.

Injury aside, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced on Thursday that its ethics commission was to study Stepanova's possible inclusion.

"According to the IAAF criteria, such a participation is always subject to the rules of the organiser of the relevant international competition - in this case it is therefore subject to the Olympic Charter," the IOC said in a statement.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 09, 2016, with the headline 'Coe backs Stepanova's bid'. Print Edition | Subscribe