IAAF clears Russian world champions to compete as neutrals

World champions Maria Kuchina and Sergey Shubenkov have been cleared to compete as neutral athletes by the sport's world governing body the IAAF.

High jumper Kuchina and sprint hurdler Shubenkov won golds at the 2015 World Championships in Beijing and would have been among the favourites in Rio 2016 if Russia had been allowed to send an athletics team.

But with the Russian federation banned for systemic doping since November 2015, the IAAF has only allowed Russians who have been individually vetted to compete internationally.

That meant only two Russians were eligible for Rio 2016, long jumper Darya Klishina and middle-distance runner Yuliya Stepanova, and only Klishina actually competed in Brazil.

Since then, however, three Russians were cleared to compete in February and now seven more, including Kuchina and Shubenkov, have been approved by an IAAF doping review board. The pair will both be in contention for medals again at the 2017 World Championships in London in August.

In a press release, IAAF president Seb Coe said: "There can be no time constraints on a process which has been established to safeguard the rights and aspirations of the world's clean athletes and is about rebuilding confidence in competition.

"For the avoidance of any doubt, as we have consistently stated from the beginning of this process, all athletes given exceptional eligibility will compete as independent neutral athletes and not as a Russian team."

Since the IAAF updated its guidelines on Russian eligibility earlier this year, it has received about 100 applications from Russian athletes, 38 of which have been endorsed by Russia's national federation, which itself remains suspended.

Ten of those have been approved and 17 declined, with the rest under review, which involves re-testing stored samples, cross-referencing with Professor Richard McLaren's report for the World Anti-Doping Agency on Russia's state-sponsored doping programme and each athlete being tested a sufficient number of times by a reputable agency.

As well as winning world championship gold in 2015, the 24-year-old Kuchina was an indoor world champion and European silver medallist in 2014. In Russia last summer, she jumped a height that would have won gold in Rio.

Shubenkov, 26, is a double European champion and also won a bronze medal at the 2013 Worlds in Moscow. He was a high-profile critic of the IAAF's decision to ban Russia from Rio.

The five other approved athletes announced by the IAAF on Tuesday are: Illia Mudrov (pole vault), Sergey Shirobokov (race walks), Daniil Tsyplakov (high jump), Olga Mullina (pole vault) and Yana Smerdova (race walks).


KEYWORDS: sport, iaaf, athletics.

 

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