High-jump star Maria Lasitskene welcomes change of Russian sports minister

Lasitskene hopes it would help athletics in Russia, at a time when the country is banned globally.

Maria Lasitskene hopes to compete in Tokyo as a neutral athlete. - AFP

Russian high jump star Maria Lasitskene said on Wednesday that she hoped the change of Russian sports minister would help athletics, at a time when the country is banned globally.

“I want to believe, I want to hope that these changes will help us, will influence the Russian Athletics Federation because we are really in a pitiful state,” the 27-year-old three-time world champion told AFP.

Cabinet overhaul

Her plea came the day after President Vladimir Putin replaced Pavel Kolobkov in a cabinet overhaul with Oleg Matytsin, president of the International University Sports Federation. The Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) and the Russian Olympic Committee also welcomed the appointment.

In December, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) banned Russia for four years from participating in international events, including the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, over what it considers a state-sponsored programme of doping.

Lasitskene hopes to compete in Tokyo as a neutral athlete.

'Shameful'

Lasitskene, a vocal critic of the Russian sporting authorities, meanwhile reiterated her attacks against the leadership of the Russian Athletics Federation (RUSAF), which has been suspended since November, 2015, by World Athletics. “It is simply shameful that for so long the federation’s leaders have not been able to rectify the situation. Unfortunately, they have made it even worse,” said Lasitskene.

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RUSAF’s application for international reinstatement was halted last November after an investigation into whether its officials had forged documents to provide an alibi for another high jumper, Danil Lysenko, who had failed to make himself available for out-of-competition testing.

The president of RUSAF, Dmitry Shlyakhtin, resigned but Lasitskene is less optimistic that a leadership election on February 28 will change anything. “Unfortunately today, those who would like to preside over the federation are people I don’t trust,” she said.

“Many of them were in Dmitry Shlyakhtin’s team and I don’t think that would help athletics,” she said.

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