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Russian athletes await IAAF neutrals ruling

Maria Kuchina is among three dozen Russian athletes seeking to compete as neutrals © AFP/File / Greg Baker

MOSCOW, Russian Federation, Feb 21 – Some three dozen Russian athletes are awaiting an IAAF decision on whether they can compete as neutrals, Moscow said Tuesday, as time ticks down to the European indoor championships.

Russia’s track and field team has been banned from competition over state-sponsored doping since 2015, but world athletics authorities have ruled individuals can compete as neutrals if they are proved to be drug-free.

Russian athletics federation chief Dmitry Shlyaktin said that 33 athletes have so far asked the IAAF to compete, and another 11 were considering putting in applications.

“For the time being we’re still awaiting the IAAF decision,” Shlyaktin told journalists.

“Hopefully we will understand what the situation is in the near future.”

Russia’s athletes — who were forced to miss the Rio Olympics due to the ban — are hoping that IAAF approval comes in time for them to compete at the March 3-5 European Indoor Championships in Belgrade.

The 2015 world high jump champion Maria Kuchina insisted that after more than a year on the sidelines of international competitions the Russian athletes were ready and willing to compete as soon as they get the green light.

“We have done a huge amount of work to achieve this result,” Kuchina, who performed the season’s best mark of 2.03m at Russia’s indoor championships, said.

“We’re ready to go at any time. We all continue practicing and are waiting for the answer.”

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The IAAF ban led to Russian athletes missing the Olympics in Rio and the world athletics governing body ruled to extend the punishment earlier this month.

IAAF president Sebastian Coe said that Russia could not be reintegrated into the sport before November.

In his latest report released in December, Canadian doping investigator Richard McLaren claimed that 1,000 Russians were involved in a doping system organised by the Russian sports ministry over several years.

The Russian government however has repeatedly denied any involvement in doping.

Last month RusAF said it fully approved and supported the IAAF decision to give athletes a chance to compete as neutrals.

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