Russia's Athletics Federation (Rusaf) missed the deadline on Wednesday to pay part of a million-dollar fine handed down by the world athletics body, jeopardising some Russian athletes’ hopes of competing internationally.
“Rusaf does not have the money to pay the fines imposed by World Athletics,” the federation’s president Yevgeny Yurchenko told state news agency TASS.
He dismissed the federation’s “numerous critics”, saying his organisation “did everything possible” to source the money and pay the sum.
Russia was given the July 1 deadline to pay $5 million – part of a fine imposed for breaching anti-doping rules – in order for the country’s clean athletes to be able to qualify to compete under a neutral flag.
The approval process for neutral athletes was put on hold last November after World Athletics said Rusaf had obstructed ongoing anti-doping investigations.
Russia has been fighting for readmission to World Athletics since it was banned in 2015 over repeated doping scandals.
Russia’s athletes missed the 2016 Olympic Games over the ban and were anticipating the Wednesday deadline with concerns over their participation in the Tokyo Games, now rescheduled for August next year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In a statement published on social media, Rusaf said the federation’s presidium held a meeting on Tuesday, but did not specify whether the fine was discussed.
Athletes reacted to the post with exasperation and criticism. Pole vaulter Anzhelika Sidorova commented on Instagram with a face-palm emoticon, while heptathlete Artem Makarenko posted a picture of a coffin.
World champion high jumper Maria Lasitskene blasted Yurchenko, who was elected president in February on the promise to overhaul the federation and convince World Athletics to allow clean Russian athletes to compete.
Yurchenko “betrayed clean athletes”, said Lasitskene, who has emerged as a leading Rusaf critic and voice for clean Russian athletes.
Lasitskene, Sidorova and hurdler Sergey Shubenkov last month wrote a letter to President Vladimir Putin, urging him to take note of the “catastrophic situation” in Russian athletics.