POSTED: July 1st 2016

Olympics: Whistleblower Stepanova gets IAAF green light for competing and more pressure to perform

Yuliya Stepanova, nee Rusanova, will be in the hot seat at Rio 2016 if she is able to run © Getty Images
Yuliya Stepanova, nee Rusanova, will be in the hot seat at Rio 2016 if she is able to run © Getty Images

LAURA WALDEN (USA) / Sports Features Communications

(SFC) The IAAF Doping Review Board has given Yuliya Stepanova the approval to compete at the Rio 2016 athletics events as an independent neutral athlete. The IAAF explains that this is the first case of an athlete requesting exceptional eligibility to compete in International Competition as a neutral athlete under Competition Rule 22.1A.

This will likely spark contention as the President of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) and member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Alexander Zhukov, has insisted that any athlete cleared to compete for Russia under these special circumstances must do so under the Russian flag. 

Stepanova and her husband Vitaly came forth and made public incriminating information as to the inside workings of Russian athletics and state complicit cover ups. These allegations compounded with those of the former head of the Moscow Anti-doping Laboratory, Grigory Rodchenkov, documented in the ARD documentary by Hajo Seppelt, shot a lightning bolt through world sport and raised critical questions on the validity of the overall anti-doping system.

Russian athletics is currently suspended from competitions but the IAAF is open to exceptional circumstances to allow clean athletes to compete at Rio 2016 and other competitions.

The Doping Review Board led by Robert Hersh, included Sylvia Barlag and Antti Pihlakoski, all three agreed to grant the exceptional status to Stepanova for her transparency and contribution to the protection and promotion of clean athletes, fair play and the integrity and authenticity of the sport.

However this is the first part of a process she still has to be approved by the organizer of the event she would like to take part in, and the IAAF has already informed European Athletics as the continental championships  will take place in Amsterdam July 6-10. Other international events organizers will be notified today of her eligibility.

So far the IAAF has taken in over 80 applications from Russian athletes who need to prove that they were not involved with Russian Athletics' inadequate anti-doping practices and that they were in training for a sufficient amount of time to allow for a substantial assurance of integrity.

If athletes pass the first test by the IAAF then they will be forwarded to the Doping Review Board for scrutiny to decide if they merit special neutral status.

The form of these further applications is being checked against the Guidelines issued by the IAAF last week and, if they are in the correct form, they too will be referred to the Doping Review Board for a decision on exceptional eligibility.

If Stepanova makes it to Rio 2016 and she likely will, she will be under extreme pressure to chase her Olympic Dream with a clear head and on the other hand to deal with the exceptional situation that has evolved after she exposed the Pandora's Box of Russian athletics.

**LAURA WALDEN has over twenty-five years of experience in the Olympic Movement, formerly at the European Olympic Committees with SportEurope under former IOC President Dr. Jacques Rogge and IOC Member Mario Pescante. She worked with the Rome 2004 and Turin 2006 Olympic bids and also managed PR & media for Dr. Jacques Rogge during his campaign for the presidency.

Keywords · Olympics · Rio 2016 · Yuliya Stepanova

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