Russian gold medalist on Rio ban: ‘This is a human rights violation’

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Russian pole-vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva, who won gold at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, is speaking out against the IAAF’s vote to extend its international ban of Russia’s track and field federation.

"This is a violation of human rights," Isinbayeva told Russian news agency TASS. "I won’t keep silent. I’ll turn to a human rights court. I’ll prove to the IAAF and the World Anti-Doping Agency that they have made a wrong decision. I’ll do this demonstratively so that it is understood that Russia won’t stay silent."

Isinbayeva had written an impassioned op-ed in the New York Times just before the IAAF convened in Vienna on Friday, urging them to end the ban for the sake of clean Russian athletes.

“If some Russian athletes have failed doping tests, why must Russia’s clean athletes face a ban?” she wrote. “Why shouldn’t we be able to compete in Rio against the clean athletes from other countries in Rio?”

Pole-vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva said she is considering taking legal action to be able to compete in the upcoming Rio Olympics. (AFP)
Pole-vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva said she is considering taking legal action to be able to compete in the upcoming Rio Olympics. (AFP)

She continued, asking the IAAF to consider the impact that a ban would have on future generations.

“Russia’s children need heroes,” she wrote. “Banning me and my fellow athletes from the Olympics would not just be devastating to us, but would also set back our efforts to inspire young people.”

In its ruling Friday, the IAAF said that there is a “tiny crack in the door” for clean athletes who live and train outside of Russia to be able to compete independently, but Isinbayeva dismissed this idea.

“If I compete, it will be as a Russian,” she wrote. “If the entire Russian team is suspended, I will be suspended, too.”

Stephanie Hightower, the IAAF's American representative, pushed back against Isinbayeva's comments. 

"I'm calling into question, is she part of the system, too?," Hightower told the Associated Press. "It's very troubling that someone of her caliber would question a system that basically every other Olympic athlete is subject to, and that she's talking about human-rights issues. She should be talking to her government. Her government has failed athletes. We have not."

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