IAAF to rule on Russian Olympic hopefuls as deadline nears

MOSCOW (AP) Russian doping whistleblower Yulia Stepanova could race at next week's European championships as the first exemption from Russia's doping ban if an imminent IAAF ruling goes her way.

Stepanova was one of the world's top 800-meter runners before she and her husband Vitaly Stepanov, a drug-testing official, provided evidence to the World Anti-Doping Agency that doping was systematic in Russian track and field, with officials helping to cover it up.

Stepanova, who had provided undercover footage of athletes and officials apparently admitting their use of banned substances, left Russia in 2014, saying she feared for her safety.

With Russia is still banned from Olympic track and field events ahead of the Rio de Janeiro Games because of its doping record, track and field's governing body is preparing to rule on whether to exempt some Russians from the ban, including Stepanova.

The International Association of Athletics Federations says it will rule on the first set of names ''by the end of this week,'' opening the door for Stepanova to race at the European championships in Amsterdam next week.

''European Athletics is ready to accept her late entry, and we are awaiting further instruction from the IAAF Doping Review Board that has been put in place to discuss the eligibility of athletes' requests,'' European Athletics said in a statement.

The IAAF can allow individual Russians to compete as ''neutral athletes'' if they can show they have been regularly tested by a reliable agency. The measure is aimed largely at Russians who have been based abroad and few athletes are likely to be eligible, though U.S.-based long jumper Daria Klishina, a two-time European indoor champion, is likely to be one.

The deadline to apply is July 4 and a decision on all claims will be made by July 18. The Olympic track and field competitions start August 12.

While the IAAF refused to say how many Russians had applied, Russian officials have said that around 10 applications have already been sent and as many as 67 athletes could apply in total.

It is not yet clear how the measure would work for Rio, since the International Olympic Committee has refused to accept the ''neutral athlete'' designation and insists any Russians allowed to compete must do so under the Russian flag.

The Russian Olympic Committee is preparing an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, seeking to overturn the ban on its team.

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