'I have questions': Russian high-jump star Lasitskene slams officials

Moscow (AFP) –


One of Russia's top athletes, three-time world champion high jumper Mariya Lasitskene, on Tuesday called sports officials to account after her country was banned for four years from international competition.

In her open letter published by Championat.com sports website, Lasitskene, a longtime critic of Russian sports officials, demanded to know who has been punished over the country's doping scandal and the fact that she cannot compete under the Russian flag.

Lasitskene missed the 2016 Rio Olympics because of the doping crisis and had threatened to leave Russia so as not to miss the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.

"The Russian flag was taken from me at the end of 2015," the 26-year-old wrote, calling herself "an athlete who has a lot of questions".

"Have we done an internal investigation? Who was punished?" Lasitskene said.

"Why is our athletics still using banned substances, and coaches of athletes caught doping are still working while officials in charge are falsifying official documents?"

The World Anti-Doping Agency on Monday banned Russia for four years from major global sporting events including the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and the 2022 World Cup in Qatar over manipulated doping data, prompting an angry response from President Vladimir Putin.

Many Russian officials have blamed "anti-Russian hysteria" for the ban.

Lasitskene, who hails from the Russian Caucasus and won gold at the 2015, 2017 and the 2019 World Championships, has previously called on the head of Russia's Athletics Federation to resign.

She has also complained that it was psychologically hard to compete as a neutral.

Some of her supporters have suggested on Instagram that she quit Russia and take up a different citizenship, but Lasitskene on Monday said she did not plan to obtain a new passport.

She said Russian athletics was in poor shape and lamented that nobody was being held accountable.

"I'd like to know, what have the sports ministry and the Russian Olympic Committee done to protect me personally?" she said.

"You created so many commissions but I cannot find any reports of their accomplishments," she added.

"Who is at fault? And who will return to me what I have lost?"