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IAAF green light for three Russian athletes

Russia’s Anzhelika Sidorova, in action 2015, will be allowed to compete internationally under a neutral flag © AFP/File / WANG ZHAO

MONACO, Monaco, Feb 24 – Three Russian athletes were on Thursday given the green light to compete internationally under a neutral flag by athletics’ world governing body the IAAF.

Pole vaulter Anzhelika Sidorova – European champion in 2014, sprinter Kristina Sivkova and hammer thrower Aleksei Sokirskii all met the “exceptional eligibility criteria” to compete in international competition as neutral athletes, the IAAF said on the same day as the entry deadline for the March 3-5 European Indoor Championships in Belgrade.

The trio join long jumper Darya Klishina and doping whistle-blower and former drugs cheat Yuliya Stepanova, who were previously declared eligible to compete.

The Russian athletics federation (RusAF) remains suspended from competition because of widespread state-sponsored doping, but individual athletes can compete as neutrals if they are proved to be drug-free.

“Their participation as neutral athletes in international competition is still subject to acceptance by the individual athlete and the organiser of the competition in question, in accordance with the rules of that competition,” the International Association of Athletics Federations added in a statement.

The IAAF has received a total of 48 applications from Russian athletes, 28 of which have been endorsed by RusAF. Six applications have also been declined whilst the remaining applications, “many for competitions later in the year, are currently under review”, it added.

IAAF President Sebastian Coe said: “The application process to compete internationally as neutral athletes is about our desire to support the hopes and aspirations of all clean athletes including Russian athletes who have been failed by their national system.

“While prioritising applications based upon the entry deadlines of the competitions concerned, the primary responsibility of the Doping Review Board must always be to safeguard the integrity of competition.”

Russia has been barred from international track and field competition — including the Rio Olympics — since November 2015 following a damning report alleging state-sponsored doping in the country in Olympic sports over several years.

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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.

Moscow denies any state role in doping but Vitaly Mutko, who was promoted from sports minister to deputy prime minister despite the doping controversy, has pointed the finger at Russia’s athletics coaches.

The IAAF ban led to Russian athletes missing the Olympics in Rio last summer and world athletics’ governing body ruled to extend the punishment earlier this month, president Coe saying that Russia could not be reintegrated into the sport before November.

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

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