9 July 2020

Leading Russian athletes consider changing citizenship

Leading Russian athletes are considering changing citizenship, after World Athletics put the Authorised Neutral Athlete (ANA) approval process on hold until its 29/30 July Council meeting, where it will decide what action to take over the Russian Athletics Federation’s (RusAF) failure to pay a US$6.31 million fine. Anzhelika Sidorova (Анжелика Сидорова), who won a pole vault Gold Medal as an ANA at the Doha 2019 World Championships, told Russia Today that she is considering changing her citizenship. Maria Lasitskene (Мария Ласицкене), who also won Gold in the High Jump as an ANA at Doha 2019, has written to Russia’s President Vladimir Putin requesting intervention (see Instagram post below) and told Russia Today that she is considering withdrawing from the national team. 


RusAF was on a path to reinstatement after being suspended in November 2015 due to collusion of its officials with World Athletics officials to cover up positive doping tests. A reinstatement process was put in place, followed by the ANA process, which allowed Russian athletes to compete internationally at events that fall under World Athletics’ jurisdiction from the London 2017 World Championship onwards if they could prove that they had not been affected by State doping.

The Regulations on this are complicated. The Neutral Athletes Regulations (which can be downloaded here) specify that athletes can be granted permission to compete internationally under Rule 3 of World Athletics’ Eligibility Rules (which can be downloaded here). Article 3.2.2 of these Rules specify that in order to compete internationally as an ANA, an athlete must demonstrate that they are ‘not directly implicated’ by the failure of a Member Federation to put in place adequate systems to protect clean sport; and that they have been subject to ‘other, fully adequate, systems (including fully WADA Code-compliant drug-testing) for a sufficiently long period to provide substantial objective assurance of integrity’.

How this assessment is made is unclear, but it appears to be at the discretion of World Athletics. ‘World Athletics will confirm the participation of all Neutral Athletes in writing having first verified their qualification status’, reads Article 1.5 of the Neutral Athlete Regulations. ‘In confirming the participation of any Neutral Athlete, World Athletics may impose such conditions on their participation as it sees fit, including but not limited to the signature of a Neutral Athlete Agreement.’

However, it appears that the amount of evidence an athlete is required to provide varies, depending on the competition in which they are seeking to compete. ‘The more important the International Competition in question, the more corroborating evidence the athlete must provide in order to be granted special eligibility under Rule 3.2 of these Rules’, reads Article 3.2.3 of the Eligibility Rules.

The ANA process was derailed after RusAF officials were found to have forged documents to assist high jumper Danil Lysenko avoid a ‘whereabouts failure’ charge. This resulted in RusAF being issued with a US$10 million fine, US$5 million of which (plus $1.31 million in costs) was due to be paid by 1 July. RusAF failed to meet that deadline.

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