Athletics: World Athletics puts Russians' return on hold

Authorised Neutral Athlete Sergey Shubenkov (above left) is among Russian stars who have called on President Vladimir Putin to act so they can feature at the Olympics in Japan. PHOTO: AFP

PARIS (AFP) - World Athletics announced on Thursday (July 2) the provisional suspension of the process of allowing Russian athletes to return to competition after the country's athletics federation (RusAF) failed to pay a fine for breaking doping rules.

RusAF had until July 1 to send the global body a US$5 million (S$7 million) fine and US$1.31 million in other costs following accusations it had helped 2017 world high jump silver medallist Danil Lysenko avoid a sanction for failing to comply with anti-doping measures.

On Wednesday, RusAF's president Yevgeny Yurchenko, appointed in February, said it had been unable to send the funds due to a lack of resources linked to the coronavirus pandemic.

"We recognise these are difficult times, but we are very disappointed by the lack of progress made by RusAF in terms of the requirements set in March," World Athletics president Sebastian Coe said.

"The serious allegations of breaching the anti-doping rules resulted in a new RusAF administration and we had assurances and hoped that change was on its way."

"RusAF is letting its athletes down badly. The terms of payment of the fine and costs were clear and unchallenged by RusAF at the time so this issue will now need to return to Council at the end of July," he added.

Last November, World Athletics had frozen the process before allowing 10 Russian athletes to compete at the Tokyo Olympics in exchange for the fine being paid.

A month later the World Anti-Doping Agency banned Russia from global sporting events, including the next two Olympics and the 2022 World Cup, accusing Moscow of falsifying data.

Russian stars Maria Lasitskene, Sergey Shubenkov and Anzhelika Sidorova last week spoke with the country's President Vladimir Putin about the situation and called on him to act so they could feature at next year's Olympics in Japan.

"Shame, almost 5 years, and we are back in the same place," 2019 pole vault world champion Sidorova said on Instagram later on Thursday.

"Sometimes I just want to shake off all this dirt, into which we are dipped endlessly, go into the sunset and never have anything to do with this sport again."

Russia has been fighting for readmission to World Athletics since it was banned in 2015 over repeated doping scandals.

The country's track and field athletes and others from different disciplines missed the 2016 Olympic Games over the ban and "Authorised Neutral Athletes" have competed at world and European championships since then.

World Athletics' Council will review the situation at a meeting on July 29-30 to ensure the body is not incurring additional costs that may not be reimbursed.

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