MOSCOW • Russian doping whistle-blower Yuliya Stepanova has become the first athlete to be granted permission to compete at the Rio Olympics under a neutral flag, after the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) ruled in her favour yesterday.
The IAAF voted last month to maintain a global competition ban on the All-Russia Athletic Federation, and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) decided only athletes who are individually cleared to compete by their respective international federations could go to Rio.
As part of the process, applicants have to e-mail the IAAF's general secretary, in English, and provide documentary evidence to prove they have clean anti-doping records that can be verified by credible agencies.
Stepanova, the 29-year-old 800m runner, is the first athlete to pass the "exceptional eligibility" guidelines outlined by the IAAF's Doping Review Board and will therefore be eligible to compete at next month's Games.
The IAAF has received more than 80 formal requests from Russian athletes, including noted pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva, world champion hurdler Sergey Shubenkov and long jumper Daria Klishina. July 18 is the deadline for submissions.
Stepanova turned whistle-blower after receiving a ban for abnormalities with her biological passport.
Her revelations helped expose the massive doping problem in her country and the middle-distance runner left Russia and went into hiding after disclosing the issue.
She subsequently moved to Germany and then North America with her husband and fellow whistle- blower Vitaly, a former official in the Russian Anti-Doping Agency.
She could now make a comeback as soon as Wednesday in the 800m after European Athletics approved her participation at the continental championships in Amsterdam.
European Athletics reiterated the IAAF's views and said it recognised Stepanova's "exceptional contribution to the protection and promotion of clean athletes" and cleared her to compete in Amsterdam .
"If Stepanova takes her place in Amsterdam, she will compete under the European Athletics flag and is scheduled to compete in the first round of the women's 800m," European Athletics said in a statement.
While it is still unclear if the middle-distance runner would now be eligible to compete at the Rio Olympics, with the IAAF saying it was up to the organisers to decide, that is expected to be a formality.
"Stepanova's participation as a neutral athlete in international competition is still subject to acceptance by the organiser of the competition in question, in accordance with the rules of that competition," the IAAF said.
On Thursday, Russia's men's quadruple sculls crew were banned from the Rio Olympics after one of their members failed a doping test in May.
Sergey Fedorovtsev provided a urine sample at an out-of-competition test conducted by the Russian Anti-Doping Agency on May 17 and tested positive for the prohibited substance trimetazidine, rowing's world governing body Fisa said.
They will be replaced by New Zealand.
REUTERS, THE GUARDIAN