Russia doping: Yelena Isinbayeva pleads for ban to be lifted

Isinbayeva has set 28 world records
Isinbayeva has set 28 world records

Yelena Isinbayeva says she will not compete under the International Olympic Committee flag if Russian athletes are banned from the 2016 Rio Games.

Russia was suspended from international competition in November after it was accused of state-sponsored doping.

On Friday, it will find out if that ban has been lifted. If it is not, pole vaulter Isinbayeva will not be in Rio.

She said: "If the entire Russian team is suspended, I will be suspended, too. If I compete, it will be as a Russian."

Isinbayeva, who won Olympic gold in 2004 and 2008, added: "There have been suggestions that I compete under the IOC flag. But this doesn't seem like a real possibility."

Russia's participation in athletics at Rio will be decided when the council of world governing body the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) meets in Vienna on Friday.

Triple outdoor world champion Isinbayeva backs the fight against drug cheats but says clean athletes should not suffer as a result.

"I understand that the IAAF needs to take strong action to eradicate doping," wrote the 34-year-old star, looking to compete in her fifth Games.

"I do not think it is fair to forbid me and other clean Russian athletes to compete - athletes who have repeatedly proved they are innocent of cheating.

"Over the course of nearly 20 years of competition, including throughout my four Olympic cycles, I have never failed a doping test - be it in London, China, the United States or any of the European countries where I have vaulted.

"I have been tested endlessly by anti-doping officials around the world."

Isinbayeva's emotional plea

The Russian conveyed her thoughts in an open letter published by the New York Times. A section from that letter appears below:

"Since coming out of retirement after the birth of my daughter two years ago, I have devoted my life to my sport and sacrificed countless hours pushing my body for the chance to compete one last time at the Olympics.

"I have been trying to juggle the demands of motherhood with the demands of training. Every morning I have been waking up early to care for Yeva, my daughter, and to train, on average six hours a day. My coach suffered a stroke, but even from his hospital bed he wrote training plans for me, never giving up his hope that I would win my third gold medal in Rio.

"But instead of focusing on that goal - which would further secure my place in sporting history - I have been struggling with the uncertainty of whether I can even compete in Brazil. It has been a physically exhausting and emotionally draining time.

"Let's be clear: doping is a global issue that has cast a shadow over athletics in many countries. So if some Russian athletes have failed doping tests, why must Russia's clean athletes face a ban? Why shouldn't we be able to compete in Rio against the clean athletes from other countries in Rio?"

Russia 'ready to return'

Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko says the country should be re-admitted to track and field competition, saying it has made all the necessary changes it was asked to following its suspension.

"At the end of the day, we have fulfilled all the criteria, everything that they demanded of us," he said. "All the athletes are under control."

However, a new World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) report has said anti-doping officials were stopped from carrying out proper testing in Russia.

It said some test results could not be collected, hundreds of tests were declined or cancelled, while other tests were missed completely.

It also said some testing officials were intimidated and threatened with expulsion by armed federal security guards on some occasions.

Responding to the Wada report, Mutko said he would ensure better cooperation in future.

"If you need government help, inform us," he said. "Don't wait until the last minute. We will do everything possible for doping inspectors to visit any city."

Mutko has also threatened legal action if Russia's athletics federation is not reinstated in time for the Rio Games, which start on 5 August.

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