High jumper slams Russian officials

MOSCOW • Russian high jump champion Mariya Lasitskene yesterday hit out at Moscow’s sports officials ahead of this month’s world championships in Doha, saying she will not let them stop her from going to another Olympics.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) on Monday gave Russia three weeks to explain “inconsistencies” in a cache of laboratory data handed over to investigators, raising the possibility of a fresh ban on the country in the build-up to the Tokyo Olympics.

Lasitskene, a two-time world champion, is one of the Russian athletes who has been allowed to compete under a neutral flag while others have been banned from sport since November 2015 over a vast doping scandal.

She was barred from taking part in the 2016 Rio Olympics, and said she has “no certainty” that Russian athletes will be allowed to take part in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

“I do not intend to miss a second Olympics in a row because of some strange people that cannot do their job honestly,” the 26-year-old wrote on Instagram, referring to Russian athletic officials.

Lasitskene vowed that Russian athletes will “fully defend our rights to take part” in the Games. In June, she said athletes were fed up with promises to reform the country’s doping-tainted coaching while blaming their failures on an anti-Russian conspiracy.

In a statement on Monday night, Russian Olympic Committee president Stanislav Pozdnyakov admitted “the situation is very serious” and that “the prospects for the participation of the Russian Olympic team at the Games in Tokyo next year will be in jeopardy”.

The suspect data was made public at a meeting of Wada’s executive board in Tokyo, where board members were informed of inconsistencies between data submitted earlier this year by Moscow’s laboratory and information shared by a whistle-blower in October 2017.

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In the words of a well-known law enforcement personality, ‘Surprise, surprise, surprise’. Looks like it’s hammer time, and let’s hope there are no secret backroom deals, but that justice is finally served.

TRAVIS TYGART, Usada’s chief executive, who hopes the guilty parties will be punished.

The Russian Anti-Doping Agency (Rusada) was suspended in November 2015 for its role in the state-sponsored scandal that marred many competition results from the 2012 London Games and 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, and several international competitions.

The organisation was reinstated last year but was required to turn over laboratory data.

While Wada’s intelligence and investigations department received that data in January this year, a “formal compliance procedure” was initiated last week over concerns that the data it was given had been tampered with or altered.

Rusada and the Russian Ministry of Sport have been given three weeks to respond, though Wada has said it has no timetable for a final decision.

If the executive board finds that Russia has been “non-compliant” and the Court of Arbitration for Sport affirms the decision, the country could face similar or even more severe penalties to what it received before last year’s Winter Games. Some Russians were allowed to compete in Pyeongchang as “Olympic Athletes from Russia”, but the country had no formal presence in South Korea.

Russian Olympic officials have repeatedly tried to impress upon the international Olympic community that it has undertaken major reforms and deserves full reinstatement to athletic competitions.

The extended investigation will serve as yet another test for Wada and the International Olympic Committee, both of whom have drawn the ire of anti-doping advocates for failing to keep Russia in line, despite mounting concerns from many athletes, and varying degrees of indifference and defiance from some Russian leaders.

“In the words of a well-known law enforcement personality, ‘Surprise, surprise, surprise’,” Travis Tygart, chief executive of the United States Anti-Doping Agency said in response on Monday.

“Looks like it’s hammer time, and let’s hope there are no secret backroom deals, but that justice is finally served in an open, transparent and public manner. The world, especially clean athletes, have been yanked around enough already.”

While Russian’s inclusion at Tokyo hang in the balance, Monday’s news had an immediate impact on the Olympic community.

The world’s best track and field athletes are gathering in Doha, Qatar, for the IAAF track and field world championships, which begin on Friday. The IAAF ruled on Monday that 30 Russian athletes could compete as neutral athletes at the meet, but the country’s track and field federation would remain under suspension.

WASHINGTON POST, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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