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Russia Will Send 19 'Neutral' Athletes To Track Championships, Despite Doping Ban

  • RFE/RL

Russian runner Yulia Stepanova (file photo)

Russia's government has told 19 athletes set to compete as "neutrals" at the world track and field championships in London next month that they will be paid by the state -- despite being banned from officially representing Russia.

Russian Sports Minister Pavel Kolobkov said on July 25 that the 19 athletes who compete at the championships will receive their salaries and bonuses "in spite of the neutral flag."

Russia says it will send 19 competitors to the world championships as “neutral athletes” because Russian athletes are prevented from officially representing their country as a result of an international doping ban.

The Russian Athletics Federation on July 24 said it would also attempt to send doping whistle-blower and 800-meter runner Yulia Stepanova to the event despite her earlier rejection by the International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF).

Stepanova has performed only rarely this year and does not have enough points to meet standard qualification criteria. The federation said it would file papers with the IAAF for an exemption.

The IAAF said it was not able to confirm the number of athletes from Russia until closer to the event, which begins August 4.

The 19 athletes planning to attend, including three former world champions, have been given exemptions from Russia's suspension after the IAAF reviewed their history of drug testing.

Because they will be officially entered as "neutral athletes," they will not be allowed to wear Russian national colors in the competition. The country's national anthem will not be played if any of them win their events.

Among the 19 athletes, Maria Lasitskene is a big favorite to retain her high jump title.

Russia has been under suspension since November 2015, when investigations by the World Anti-Doping Agency alleged that drug use and cover-ups were common on Russia’s track team.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, TASS, and Excelle Sports
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