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Russia asks IOC to explain term ‘neutral athlete’ used by IAAF

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Lausanne, June 21: Russia’s Olympics Committee (ROC) has asked the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to explain the term "neutral athletes" used by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) last Friday, ROC president Alexander Zhukov said in a statement on Tuesday.

"The IAAF Council ‘graciously’ allowed individual athletes who will be capable to prove they are not tainted by doping to apply to compete at international competitions not for their country but as ‘neutral athletes'," Zhukov noted.

"We would like to know who these mysterious athletes are and how Russian athletes who have been suspended from international competitions can satisfy these requirements. What does the term ‘neutral athlete’ mean? How can such an athlete take part in the Olympic Games not being put on their country’s roster?" he said.

Zhukov went on to say that the athletes innocent of violating anti-doping regulations would be filing appeals with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in case they are barred from the Olympics.

"Russian athletes, who never violated anti-doping regulations, as well as the All-Russia Athletics Federation (ARAF), will be turning to the Court of Arbitration for Sport with the aim of protecting their interests, as well as interests of all athletes, who proved to be clean and not implicated in the abuse of performance enhancing drugs and methods," Zhukov said.

"The Russian Olympic Committee backs all these lawsuits and will be also appealing IAAF’s decision particularly regarding the rights of the national Olympic committee with the aim to prevent discrimination of the Russian athletes’ rights and violation of the Olympic Charter," the ROC president said.

"We hope that the Court of Arbitration for Sport will make an unbiased, just and legal decision despite the position voiced by its president," Zhukov added.

On Saturday, CAS president and IOC vice-president John Coates expressed doubt that the committee would lift a ban on Russian athletes’ participation in international competitions.

According to the Russian official, the removal of athletes uninvolved in doping scandal from the Rio Olympics, scheduled from August 5 to 21, would devalue their rivals’ success.

"The removal of ‘clean’ athletes from the Rio Games contradicts the values of the Olympic movement and violates the principles of the Olympic charter and is a legally unfounded step and devalues the success of their rivals," Zhukov said.

"Colleagues, don’t have any doubts that the ROC fully shares the goals of all who are present in this hall — to protect ‘clean’ athletes and preserve sport unity in compliance with the principles of the Olympic Charter and the 2020 Agenda. It is athletes and not organisations or countries that are at the heart of the Olympic movement," Zhukov said.

According to Zhukov, it is necessary to find fair decisions, which will help defend the unity of the Olympic movement in the eyes of the entire world.

"I want all of us together to find balanced and fair decisions protecting the interests of athletes — decisions that will allow protecting the unity of the Olympic movement in the eyes of the entire world riveted to us on the eve of the most important sporting event on the planet," the ROC head said.

Last Friday at its session in Vienna, the IAAF decided to keep in force the suspension of the ARAF membership in the global athletics body citing the Russian organization’s failure to implement the previously set requirements of the IAAF.

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