Russian athletes can compete at Rio 2016 Olympics – even if country is banned … – Telegraph.co.uk

“It is very important for Yelena to compete in Brazil to prove her innocence, to prove that we are clean and prove that Russian sport clean,” he explained.

Russia’s Yelena Isinbayeva is one of her country’s star performers

While the matter is yet to be discussed at the highest level, Telegraph Sport has learned that the International Olympic Committee would consider applications from Russian athletes to compete under the Olympic flag should they be prevented from representing their country in Rio.

Independent Olympic Athletes were first accepted for the 1992 Barcelona Games when 52 athletes from Yugoslavia competed under the Olympic Flag with their country prevented from taking part due to United Nations sanctions.

More recently four athletes from the former Netherlands Antilles and newly formed state of South Sudan lined up as Independent Olympic Athletes at London 2012.

Humiliation for Russia as IAAF bans athletesRussia’s athletes could be banned from representing their country in Rio  Photo: Reuters

Only last month Thomas Bach, the IOC president, announced that refugees would be allowed to compete under the Olympic Flag in Rio next year.

Declining to reveal whether it would seek to block any attempt by Russian athletes to compete individually at next year’s Olympics, the IAAF insisted it was focused on bringing the country back into the international fold.

“Everyone within the IAAF will work tirelessly with authorities in Russia on the reinstatement of the All-Russia Athletics Federation as soon as possible as this is the best outcome for the athletes,” said a spokesman. “This is the first and only priority right now for the IAAF and for Russia.”

What Russia’s ban means – and why it could end in March

The prospect of athletes who may have been complicit in a state-sponsored doping regime lining up in Rio is likely to cause major concerns for all those keen to see major changes implemented in the wake of Russia’s doping scandal.

Jo Pavey, who has been denied numerous medals by convicted dopers during her career, told Telegraph Sport that she would not feel comfortable facing Russian athletes under the Olympic Flag.

“If there’s been a systematic doping regime going on in a certain country then you could be allowing athletes in who were part of that system,” she said.

Jo Pavey: 'When the Russian athletes ran past me I wondered how they were doing it'Britain’s Jo Pavey (right)  Photo: GETTY IMAGES

“The whole point of the ban is that the entire country needs to be sorted out. It’s hard because there will be clean athletes in Russia but unfortunately the sport has lost its faith in the entire nation. Unfortunately that’s the decision that has to be taken. It has to be the case.”

Welcoming Russia’s suspension from international athletics, Pavey was adamant that the country’s ban should not be withdrawn until after the Olympics.

“It should encompass the Olympics to ensure that there aren’t athletes from a nation that have been found to be systematically doping on the start line,” she said.

“I wouldn’t have any confidence in lining up against Russian athletes now we know what has gone on.

“Even if they aren’t taking drugs now how do you know that they aren’t still getting long-term benefits?”

As London 2012 bronze medallist Tatyana Arkhipova became the first Russian to fall victim to the international ban when she was forced to withdraw from Sunday’s Saitana Marathon in Japan, a number of current and former British athletes voiced their support for the IAAF’s decision.

Former world 400m hurdles champion Dai Green called it a “landmark day in the battle against drug cheats”, while marathon world record holder Paula Radcliffe said it was now “time for serious reform”.

Meanwhile, Vitaly Mutko, Russia’s sports minister, has revealed that he expects the country to be reinstated to the international scene within three months, in time for the World Indoor Championships in March.

“It is a predictable and understandable decision,” said Mutko, who also confirmed the sports ministry will create an official commission to examine the findings of this week’s Wada independent commission report.

“We need to understand what they want and where they see threats. We will develop a joint road map and try do it quickly. I think we can do all the work in two to three months. I hope in 90 days our team will be reinstated.”

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