MOSCOW: Russian track and field athletes could be cleared to compete at next year’s Tokyo Olympics as neutrals despite the federation’s ongoing suspension, its acting chief said on Friday.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) on Monday handed Russia a four-year ban from top global sporting events, including the next summer and winter Olympics, as punishment for tampering with laboratory data.

The ruling means Russian athletes cleared to compete at next year’s summer Olympics will do so without their country’s flag and anthem. But Russian track and field athletes face additional obstacles to being cleared for competition after their federation’s reinstatement process was halted last month.

“It’s possible under a neutral flag, like with all other sports as far as I understand,” Yulia Tarasenko, who was named acting president of the federation last month, said of the prospect of seeing Russia track and field athletes in Tokyo.

World Athletics, the sport’s global governing body formerly known as the IAAF, last month halted the Russia federation’s reinstatement process and raised the possibility of it being expelled altogether after its president and six others were provisionally suspended over serious breaches of anti-doping rules.

As a result of these sanctions, World Athletics also said it was reviewing the process it has used in the past to clear some Russians, including three-time world champion high jumper Maria Lasitskene, to compete internationally as neutrals.

The seven people suspended were found to have provided false explanations and forged documents to explain three whereabouts violations by Russian high jumper Danil Lysenko, the silver medallist at the 2017 world championships.

Russia’s athletics federation was suspended in 2015 after a report commissioned by WADA found evidence of mass doping in the sport.

The head of WADA’s independent Compliance Review Committee told Reuters on Friday that Russia should not try to delay the start of the new four-year ban as the country would only miss out on future events instead.

Published in Dawn, December 14th, 2019

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