Russian Athletics: The Natives are Restless

"A large number of officials, including the head of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC), Sports Minister and Chief of the Russian Athletics Federation have been replaced. We continue to hear statements that everything possible is being done to protect Russian athletes. And now, five years on, our athletes and coaches are not even allowed to show their potential, as they are prohibited from performing internationally even in neutral status."

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The trope “the natives are restless” is a quote from the 1933 film Island of Lost Souls where Dr. Moreau creates half-humans-half-beasts. It has become a commonly used phrase any time that trouble appears to be brewing. The latest utterance may apply to Russian athletics.

The Russians are getting restless and have reached out to President Vladamir Putin. World Athletics 110m hurdles champion Sergey Shubenkov, world champion pole vaulter Anzhelika Sidorova and Mariya Lasitskene, who is a three-time high jump champion have penned a letter to Putin demanding him to intervene in the dispute between World Athletics (WA) and the Russian Athletics Federation (RusAF).

RusAF owes a $10-million fine to WA for their corruption charges. If not paid, the few Russian athletes who are able to compete internationally under a neutral flag will no longer have that opportunity. Currently, RusAF is banned from competing internationally and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics are looming (2021), as is their qualification season.

The positive doping results continue to happen, despite RusAF been told to clean up their act. On May 5, Aleksandr Shustove was suspended for the prohibited use of the alleged performance-enhancing drugs. The ban is for four years, however, Shustov may appeal that decision with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

On November 21, 2019, seven Russian officials were suspended due to tampering with samples from high-jumper Danil Lysenko’s positive test. Lysenko was also sanctioned.

Another major issue to do with corruption included the tampering of data from the main server at the Moscow laboratory, which was central to Russian’s systematic doping.

“A large number of officials, including the head of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC), Sports Minister and Chief of the Russian Athletics Federation have been replaced. We continue to hear statements that everything possible is being done to protect Russian athletes. And now, five years on, our athletes and coaches are not even allowed to show their potential, as they are prohibited from performing internationally even in neutral status.”

On the Island of Lost Souls, Dr. Moreau found it interesting that the beasts carried human emotions, but was aghast when he found that he could not control them—the plot turn was a horrifying realization. Meanwhile, the athletics world watches, to see what drama takes place next in the strange world of Russian Athletics.

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