PARIS: Once-banned Russian doping whistleblower Yuliya Stepanova has been declared eligible to compete at the Rio Olympics under a neutral flag, the IAAF said on Friday.
The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) said Stepanova “is now eligible to compete in International Competitions as an independent neutral athlete”.
The IAAF Doping Review Board “unanimously accepted the application of Yuliya Stepanova as someone having made a truly exceptional contribution to the protection and promotion of clean athletes, fair play and the integrity and authenticity of the sport”.
Her participation in the August 5-21 Games is subject to formal approval by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
Stepanova, a 29-year-old runner who specialises in the 800 metres, can also compete in the European Championships in Amsterdam from July 6-10, under the European Athletics flag.
IOC president Thomas Bach had said that Russian athletes screened by the IAAF could compete under the Russian flag, a prospect the IAAF later dismissed.
The IAAF said it has received more than 80 applications from Russian athletes seeking exceptional eligibility to compete despite their country’s suspension for state-sponsored doping.
Russian pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva applied on Thursday following world champion hurdler Sergey Shubenkov and long jumper Daria Klishina.
The IAAF decided last month to maintain the ban on Russian track and field competitors in Rio after findings of drug test violations, including ignored positive and altered test results. But the IAAF left the door ajar and clean athletes can still compete in Rio if they can prove they have not been tainted by the disgraced Russian system.
Stepanova received a two-year ban from the IAAF in 2013 after abnormalities showed up in her biological passport.
In 2014, she and her husband Vitaly Stepanov, who had worked at the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA), appeared in a German television documentary, claiming widespread doping fraud in the Russian sports system.
The Stepanovs alleged that officials within the now-disgraced Russian athletics federation supplied banned substances in exchange for 5% of an athlete’s earnings.
Officials, they said, also worked closely with anti-doping officers to falsify or keep quiet tests. Stepanova added that it was also common for Russian athletes training outside of Russia to avoid out-of-competition testing by using false names.
Following the startling revelations, Stepanova left Russia for Germany with her husband and then eight-month-old son. They have since settled in the United States.