Lasitskene poised to defend world title as a ‘neutral’ athlete

 22 Jul 2017 - 1:28

Lasitskene poised to defend world title as a ‘neutral’ athlete
Russian high jumper Maria Lasitskene


Moscow:  Barred from international competition for nearly 17 months because of the Russian doping scandal, high jumper Maria Lasitskene could threaten the world record at the world championships next month.
Lasitskene won gold at the 2015 world championships under her maiden name Kuchina but the doping scandal that was already enveloping the sport in Beijing means she will not be wearing her country’s colours when she defends the title in London.
The 24-year-old is one of 47 Russians cleared this year to compete as neutral athletes despite the ongoing suspension of the country’s federation over a 2015 report that alleged state-sponsored doping.
This special status has been viewed as an affront to Russian patriotism, prompting some to question the loyalty of the athletes. The athletes have had to prove to the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) that their training environment meets its anti-doping standards, and that appears to have also satisfied Lasitskene’s rivals.
“I’m pretty sure there were some rigorous standards for her to have to get through to be able to compete,” former world indoor champion Chaunte Lowe said.
“If she’s there, I’m sure she deserves to be there.”
Lasitskene said she had not “heard anything bad” and even if some of her rivals have made clear their disgruntlement in private, it has clearly not affected her form.
The former Youth Olympic champion has dominated her event this year and is unbeaten in 19 competitions, indoors and outdoors.
Earlier this month at a Diamond League meet in Lausanne she jumped a personal best of 2.06 metres, three centimetres off the world record set by Bulgaria’s Stefka Kostadinova in 1987.
While the Russian authorities have deplored the absence of the country’s flag from major track and field meets, they have generally supported the efforts of athletes to compete as neutrals.
“Even if she competes under the neutral flag, everyone perfectly knows that she is from Russia,” Yury Borzakovsky, head coach of the national athletics squad said.