IAAF allows 21 more Russians to compete as neutrals

MOSCOW (AP) — Russia’s officially neutral track and field team swelled in size as the IAAF approved 21 more athletes on Thursday to compete internationally before the European indoor championships next week in Glasgow.

Yelena Sokolova, the 2012 Olympic silver medalist in long jump, returns to international competition for the first time since Russia’s team was banned in 2015 over widespread doping. Triple jumper Irina Gumenyuk has her approval extended from last season.

However, there were complaints the latest approvals came too late for those hoping to compete in Glasgow, such as decathlete Artyom Makarenko.

“He doesn’t have the time to get a visa for Britain and sort out other organizational issues,” coach Sergei Zhelanov told the Tass state news agency. “So it’s been decided that Makarenko won’t go to the European championships.”

To get neutral status, Russian athletes have had to show they’re clean by providing information about their drug-testing history to an IAAF panel.

The approvals are the first granted since the World Anti-Doping Agency started analyzing data from the Moscow laboratory last month. The IAAF didn’t immediately respond to a question about whether the new information was already being used to screen athletes who may have doped in previous years.

A total of 64 Russians have neutral status for 2019. Seventy-three Russians had the status at some stage last season, according to Russian officials, who said they sent 192 applications for this season. The review process continues ahead of the world championships in Doha, which runs from Sept. 28 through Oct. 6.

Even with the neutral-status system in place, there have still been doping-related embarrassments for the IAAF and Russia. Of the six Russians who won world championship medals as neutrals in 2017, two have since been stripped of that status.

They are race walk silver medalist Sergei Shirobokov, who traveled to a remote part of Kyrgyzstan to work with a banned coach, and the high jumper Daniil Lysenko, who is charged with failing to make himself available for three drug tests.