- Title: Russia holds national athletics championships as federation remains banned
- Date: 29th July 2017
- Summary: MONITORS SEATED AT TABLE (SOUNDBITE) (Russian) HAMMER THROWER, VALERY PRONKIN, SAYING (ASKED IF RUSSIAN ATHLETICS WEAKENED AFTER BAN): "Quite the opposite, it strengthened. It was strengthened definitely. It became even stronger." (REPORTERS ASKING: AS WELL AS RESULTS?) "Results, we have always had stable results with the hammer. This year between us guys there is a fight to the death (LAUGHS) for every throw, for every metre, centimetre. We have an unreal fight."
- Embargoed: 12th August 2017 19:58
- Keywords: World Athletics Championships
- Location: ZHUKOVSKY, RUSSIA
- City: ZHUKOVSKY, RUSSIA
- Country: Russia
- Topics: Athletics,Sport
- Reuters ID: LVA0056RRR03J
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Despite being barred from international competition for nearly 17 months because of a doping scandal, Russian athletes are keeping their eyes on the prize at the national athletics championships held in Zhukovsky.
The competition kicked off on Friday (July 28) with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev in attendance.
Particular attention is being paid to the 19 Russian athletes who have been entered to compete as neutrals at next month's world championships being hosted from Aug. 4-13 in London.
The list includes hurdler Sergey Shubenkov, who will defend his world title in the 110-metre hurdles, and world champion high jumper Maria Lasitskene, whose personal best of 2.06 meters is three centimetres off the world record set in 1987.
Russia's athletics federation remains suspended over a 2015 World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) report which alleged state-sponsored doping in the sport, something the Kremlin denies.
However, the world governing body, the IAAF, has so far cleared 47 Russian athletes to compete internationally this year under the neutral flag after they demonstrated that their training environment met its anti-doping standards.
"It is obvious that in the last two years (Russian) athletics is experiencing a serious crisis, but gradually we are overcoming this crisis," said Russian Sports Minister Pavel Kolobkov.
Russian athletes competing as neutrals will not be allowed to wear their country's colours and the Russian national anthem will not be played if they win an event, according to IAAF rules.
"I will be very sad and it will be hurtful to take part without my flag, but everyone knows very well that I am Russian, I am from Russia and I represent the Russian Federation," said pole vaulter, Olga Mullina.
Sergey Shubenkov said the competition in London could not be compared to Beijing 2015 for Russians competing, but added: "I am trying to not think about this now, not to attach any importance to this."
The IAAF told Reuters it could not confirm any entry information for the world championships until the ranking process was completed.
While the Russian authorities have deplored the absence of the country's flag from major track and field meets, they have generally supported the efforts of athletes to compete as neutrals.
Russia has recently ramped up its efforts to overturn the bans against its athletics federation, its Paralympic Committee and its national anti-doping agency RUSADA.
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) last month allowed RUSADA to plan and coordinate testing under the supervision of international experts, a key step for the agency to be reinstated.
The Russian government this month approved a plan to curb the use of performance enhancing drugs, while President Vladimir Putin barred dopers and their coaches from receiving Kremlin grants.
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