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Rio Olympics 2016: Pole vault legend Yelena Isinbayeva’s Games bid suffers a huge setback

Isinbayeva, a two-time Olympic champion, saw her appeal to participate in the Olympics rejected by IAAF.

Yelena Isinbayeva
Yelena Isinbayeva is desperate for a chance to compete at the Olympics

The Olympic ban on Russian athletics by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) has cost one of its legendary athletes dearly. Double Olympic champion and the world’s best female pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva, who has been desperately looking for a chance to compete at Rio Olympics 2016 in August, suffered a major setback in her bid after the world body rejected her appeal to participate as a neutral.

She was not the only one, though, as 66 other Russians too had their request turned down. Only long jumper Darya Klishina, who trains in the USA, has been given the green signal since she has been residing full-time outside Russia for the last three years.

Apart from her, the only other athlete from the country who has been approved of participating is dope cheat-turned whistleblower Yuliya Stepanova. The 800m specialist received the go-ahead because of the critical role she played in exposing the state-sponsored doping system in her own country.

But according to reports, Russian Olympic Committee President Alexander Zhukov has already announced that Stepanova will not be picked in the Rio team.

As for Isinbayeva, she had been keenly looking forward to end her career on a high in Brazil. The world record holder, who also has three World titles, had taken a break after the 2013 World Championships to concentrate on her family.

She returned to competition recently and even holds the highest result of the season which she attained at the Russian National Championships in June with a 4.90-metre vault.

The 34-year-old, who had never been embroiled in any doping controversy, was understandably livid with the IAAF’s decision.  

“The fact that they threw this out shows their weakness and their helplessness,” she said.

“The presumption of innocence before guilt does not exist and they cannot show who is clean in Russia and who isn’t. They just show their ineffectiveness.

“I would disband the whole federation and would change those running the organisation yet again,” the Russian fumed.

Her longtime coach, Yevgeny Trofimov, too was obviously not pleased with the ruling.

“IAAF wants by all means to denigrate the All-Russia Athletic Federation (ARAF) by all means available and unavailable. This is such an interesting move; allowing Klishina to compete, they want to thereby show that all other people are unclean,” Trofimov told Russia Today.

Isinbayeva, her team and her legion of fans have a small glimmer of hope, though. Her Rio eligibility now hinges on the judgment of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) to whom the Russian athletes have appealed as a last-ditch effort.

It is expected that Isinbayeva will know her fate on July 21.

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