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2ND LEAD IAAF gives Stepanova green light for Rio Olympics By Barry Whelan, dpa

Europe
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Berlin (dpa) - International athletics federation IAAF on Friday approved Russian doping whistleblower Yulia Stepanova‘s start in international competition, paving the way for an Olympics start next month.

Stepanova can compete at the July 6-10 European Championships in Amsterdam as a neutral athlete and will be eligible for the Games in Rio de Janeiro.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) said it would study the decision once it has received all the available information from the IAAF.

European Athletics said it accepted Stepanova‘s participation in Amsterdam.

The middle-distance runner is the first athlete to be given "exceptional eligibility" to compete as a neutral athlete in international competition, the IAAF doping review board said.

The IAAF has suspended the Russian athletics federation from the August 5-21 Games in Rio over doping.

However, Russian athletes who have been subject to independently controlled drug testing have been given the opportunity to compete at the Games.

Stepanova has been allowed to compete "as someone having made a truly exceptional contribution to the protection and promotion of clean athletes, fair play and the integrity and authenticity of the sport."

The suspension of Russian athletics had followed allegations of systematic doping in Russian sports made by Stepanova and husband Vitaly Stepanov, a former member of Russian anti-doping agency RUSADA, in a documentary by German network ARD broadcast in December 2014.

Stepanova‘s participation as a neutral athlete is still subject to acceptance by the organizers of the competitions in question.

The IAAF has meanwhile received more than 80 applications from Russian athletes seeking eligibility to compete as clean athletes.

Their applications are based on claims they have undertaken doping controls over an adequate period outside the Russian athletics federation RUSAF‘s doping control system.

If the applications have been submitted correctly they will be referred to the IAAF doping review board.

European Athletics said it received notification Friday from the IAAF of Stepanova‘s eligibility for the European Championships.

Her participation "is in accordance with the competition rules" of the European Championships, it said.

European Athletics also "recognises Stepanova‘s exceptional contribution to the protection and promotion of clean athletes, fair play and the integrity and authenticity of the sport."

Stepanova would compete under the European Athletics flag and is scheduled for the first round of the women‘s 800m on Wednesday.

The All-Russia Athletic Federation (ARAF) said it "treats neutrally" the IAAF‘s decision to allow Stepanova to compete as a neutral athlete, its president Dmitry Shlyaktin told Russia‘s Tass news agency.

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