Olympic champion issues damning criticism of Russian sports bosses

High jump champion Mariya Lasitskene said the RusAF is doing nothing to protect clean athletes

Three-time high jump world champion Mariya Lasitskene has criticized the Russian Athletics Federation (RusAF) by saying that it has done nothing to protect clean Russian athletes who have been suspended from international competition as a response to Russia's military operation in Ukraine.

Friday saw the International Luge Federation's (FIL) arbitration court decide that the prevention of Russian athletes from being able to compete in international events violated the FIL charter, which meant that an appeal to the body by the Russian Luge Federation (FSSR) was successful.

Commenting on the development, however, Tokyo 2020 gold medalist Lasitskene was unimpressed and said that the decision regarding Russian lugers proved that the RusAF "did not even bother to study the World Athletics charter in order to file at least a similar appeal to the court."

Lasitskene suggested that this is what 44 athletes had asked for in their letter to acting RusAF president Irina Privalova, among other things.

In the document seen by Match TV last month, the group asked the RusAF to send an ultimatum to World Athletics and its president Sebastian Coe, and inform him that "by depriving our athletes to compete in the international season of 2022" the organization "violates the provisions of its own Charter".

"We urge WA [World Athletics] to act within the framework of the Charter, eliminating bias and any political bias in decision-making," the letter continued, adding that if RusAF hadn't "received guarantees of admission to the summer international season for athletes with current ANA (Authorized Neutral Athlete) status" by March 18, the Russian body should then suspend any payments and cooperation with World Athletics and launch an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) to "protect the rights of the federation and Russian athletes".

"We believe that by violating its own Charter now, WA casts doubt on the transparency of the process of restoring RusAF, as it can repeat these actions in the future," the document concluded.

On Friday, Lasitskene said that "it's time to admit that the RusAF leadership and international experts did nothing to protect pure Russian athletes, whose rights were once again violated."

Approaching March 21, when Russian Minister of Sports Oleg Matytsin planned to discuss measures of support for athletes amid sanctions and their rights to compete in international competitions being taken away, Lasitskene made headlines when she confirmed through her husband Vladas Lasitskas that she would be turning down her invitation to the meeting.

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Mariya Lasitskene has refused a meeting with Russian Minister of Sports Oleg Matytsin. © Stephen Pond - British Athletics/British Athletics/Getty Images
Russian Olympic champion ‘refuses’ meeting with sports minister

"The press release of the Ministry of Sports surprised me, since Masha did not give her consent to the meeting," Lasitskas said to RIA Sport. "As a result, she has refused [to attend] this event."

"She does not need support, she needs the opportunity to compete with the strongest athletes in the world," Lasitskas went on. 

"But on this matter, as we see, neither the minister of sports, nor the ROC (Russian Olympic Committee) nor RusAF helped Masha."

Lasitskene is currently banned from participating in the Diamond League – where Russian athletes previously performed under Authorized Neutral Athlete (ANA) status owing to a 2015 doping row – when it kicks off in Doha on May 13 after the competition announced a ban on Russian athletes for the "foreseeable future" in line with World Athletics' stance.

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