Svein-Arne Hansen, President of European Athletics, has praised “the brave statements and actions” of Yulia Stepanova, who will compete here at the European Athletics Championships under a neutral flag.
The former doping cheat, whose whistle-blowing activity on doping abuses has partly triggered an international ban for Russian track and field athletes, is due to run in tomorrow’s 800 metres heats in the 1928 Olympic Stadium.
Her husband and son, who were due to join her in the Dutch capital, have remained in their new home in the United States following reports of a security risk – Stepanova’s actions have been widely condemned in her homeland.
“She has been cleared by the IAAF Task Force and their Doping Review Board to be able to compete,” said Hansen.
“She is a symbol to the clean athletes.
“With her brave statements and actions she is really going out there to protect the sport for clean athletes.
“I am happy to see her here.
“She is being treated like every other athlete, although I don’t know where she is staying – she runs her first race tomorrow.
“She is very welcome.”
The President added: “It will be a new beginning for athletics after we have had some difficult times in last two years.
“I have always said that these European Championships in Amsterdam will be a turning point – now we are going to focus on the sport.”
At his first European Championships as President of European Athletics, Hansen took the opportunity at the pre-event press conference in the Stedelijk Museum to present five leading athletes with their name-bibs, which for the first time will bear the anti-doping messages: “I run clean”, “I jump clean” and “I throw clean.”
Olympic champions Renaud Lavillenie from France and Greg Rutherford from Britain, and home athletes Nadine Broersen, Churandy Martina and Rutger Smith, accepted their IDs in what was one of a number of innovations that will take place at the event.
“We are trying to give a signal with the bibs we are giving out now that clean athletes take it seriously and support our idea because all of us want a clean sport,” Hansen said.
“This is a symbol.
“I am not surprised that there are a record number of participants at these Championships.
“We are being criticised for holding our Championships in Olympic year, but the athletes are giving the answer – they are coming out in full force because they are the ones who want these events.”
Christian Milz, chief executive of European Athletics, added: “The Organising Committee is 100 per cent ready.
“They have been working very hard, days and nights, to have a successful Championship.
“In the Stadium it’s fantastic.
“And with the new city dressing nobody can ignore that there is a big event going on in the next few days.
“There’s a kind of Orange fever going on, not associated with football this time, but with athletics.”
By Mike Rowbottom
Republished with permission from insidethegames.biz.