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Russian athlete Lasitskene slams slow pace of doping reform

June 10, 2019
FILE - In this Friday, Aug. 10, 2018 file photo, Russia's Mariya Lasitskene looks on in the women's high jump final at the European Athletics Championships at the Olympic stadium in Berlin, Germany. The only Russian track athlete currently holding a world title says the country’s top officials and coaches in the sport should be replaced because of the slow pace of anti-doping reforms. High jumper Mariya Lasitskene’s message comes after Russia’s ban from international track and field was prolonged on Sunday, June 9, 2019. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader, file)
FILE - In this Friday, Aug. 10, 2018 file photo, Russia's Mariya Lasitskene looks on in the women's high jump final at the European Athletics Championships at the Olympic stadium in Berlin, Germany. The only Russian track athlete currently holding a world title says the country’s top officials and coaches in the sport should be replaced because of the slow pace of anti-doping reforms. High jumper Mariya Lasitskene’s message comes after Russia’s ban from international track and field was prolonged on Sunday, June 9, 2019. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader, file)

MOSCOW (AP) — The only Russian track athlete currently holding a world title called on the country’s officials and coaches in the sport to be replaced because of the slow pace of anti-doping reforms.

High jumper Mariya Lasitskene’s message — in a country where top athletes rarely speak out against officials — came shortly after Russia’s ban from international athletics was prolonged on Sunday.

“I hope that the people involved in this never-ending disgrace still have the courage to leave. By themselves. And don’t think I’m only talking about the management,” Lasitskene wrote on Instagram.

“It’s also about the current coaches who are still sure that you can’t win without doping. They’re long overdue for retirement. A new generation of our athletes must grow up with a different philosophy, and for any athlete, it’s the coach who provides that.”

Lasitskene’s statement echoed Russian Anti-Doping Agency CEO Yuri Ganus, who said a month ago the Russian Athletics Federation was in “a world of illusion” and needed a purge of top officials. Ganus and federation president Dmitry Shlyakhtin held talks with Sports Minister Pavel Kolobkov on Monday.

Lasitskene won world titles in 2015 and 2017, but was barred from the 2016 Olympics because of sanctions against the Russian team. She competes internationally under a neutral flag.

Long jumper Darya Klishina, a world silver medalist in 2017, commented on Instagram that Lasitskene’s call was “right on target.”

Russian Sports Minister Pavel Kolobkov said the Russian track leadership could struggle without the trust of its top athletes.

“I think that for the federation it’s a bad signal, a bad sign,” he said.

“They don’t have that direct connection with the young guys, the young athletes, and it’s unpleasant information for the federation. Of course, Dmitry Shlyakhtin should meet with them and say what kind of work is being done ... and build complete support from our clean athletes, the guys representing our country.”

Sunday’s IAAF decision left Russia with little over three months to avoid competing under a neutral flag at the world championships in Qatar. After Russia was barred from international athletics in 2015 because of widespread doping, the country’s competitors participated at the 2017 worlds as neutral athletes.

The head of the IAAF’s Russia task force, Rune Andersen, said there was evidence the country was “backsliding” on anti-doping reforms. He cited evidence that banned coaches have continued to work with athletes, and an ongoing investigation into whether Russian officials provided fake medical documentation to give high jumper Danil Lysenko an alibi for failing to notify drug testers of his whereabouts.

“I have instructed the federation president (Shlyakhtin) to be completely candid and provide any information that’s required for the special IAAF investigation,” sports minister Kolobkov said.

“It’s in our own interests for this situation to be fully investigated. If there really was a forged document or note, then everyone who was involved in that should be punished.”

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