Russian athletes want Putin action over neutral status threat
A trio of Russian athletes led by three-time high-jump world champion Maria Lasitskene have sent an open letter to Vladimir Putin asking for swift action to avoid them missing out on the Tokyo Olympics.
The system of allowing Russian athletes to take part as Authorised Neutral Athletes has been capped at 10 for Tokyo and even this is under threat unless a fine is paid by July 1 this year.
In March, World Athletics fined Russia's track and field federation $10 million for breaching anti-doping rules.
The system of allowing Russian athletes to take part as neutrals will be suspended if $5 million of the $10 million fine is not paid by July 1, World Athletics has warned.
Lasitskene, 110m hurdler Sergey Shubenkov and pole-vault world champion Anzhelika Sidorova, who all co-signed a previous, similar call two weeks ago, called upon Putin to set things straight.
"We wanted to draw your attention to a catastrophic situation in our sport," the letter said.
"We are on the verge of chaos and the destruction of our sport.
"We already missed out on the 2016 Games and it appears increasingly likely we will miss Tokyo, too.
"This is not about our careers, which will end sooner or later, but about a threat to athletics in Russia itself," the letter said, with the Tokyo Olympics having been postponed a year until 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Wholesale changes at RUSAF since the Sochi doping investigation were offset by charges against its officials that they obstructed an anti-doping investigation.
This concerned the wrongdoings in the case of high jumper Danil Lysenko, in which "forged documents and false explanations" were provided as an alibi to his whereabouts.
RUSAF president Yevgeny Yurchenko called on Putin for a clear and concrete response to the call.
"Our negotiations with World Athletics and the cooperation of other bodies depends upon it," he said. "We will go into further detail on this very soon."
Russia has been suspended by World Athletics since 2015 over repeated doping scandals and has been fighting for readmission.
The last report by World Athletics' Task Force, in November, led to its decision-making Council suspending the process of reinstating RUSAF over charges against its officials that they obstructed an anti-doping investigation.
© 2020 AFP