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Yelena Isinbayeva Reappointed RUSADA Head

Yelena Isinbayeva, the retired Russian former pole vaulter, has been reappointed chair of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) Supervisory Board despite opposition from the World Anti-Doping Agency.

Isinbayeva remarked after her appointment that the establishment of a strong, independent and transparent anti-doping system in Russia will be her main task as the Supervisory Board’s head. The retired Russian former pole vaulter added the number one task is to establish the strongest and most efficient anti-doping system in the world that would be respected and recognized by the global anti-doping and sports community. Isinbayeva also cited close cooperation with WADA and other international organizations as a priority.

In the past, the double Olympic pole vault champion had initiated a fierce attack on whistleblowers who have revealed details about alleged doping in Russia. Isinbayeva had remarked that whistleblowers should go to the authorities instead of the media.

A member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the two-time Olympic pole vault champion was first elected to the position in December. It is widely believed that the appointment of Isinbayeva in December was previously questioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency. WADA did not believe Yelena was the appropriate person to lead recovery of the organization from being declared non-compliant in 2015. According to media reports, WADA later accepted the decision as long as Yelena was not eligible to run for chairman, President, or vice-chairman.

However, it was announced that the greatest female pole-vaulter of all time had been reelected chair after being proposed to the role by the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC). A WADA spokesperson said the World Anti-Doping Agency has been informed of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency’s new appointments for its Supervisory Board, particularly the election of its new chair. The spokesman added it is the decision of the Russian authorities to elect its Board members but the appointment is not consistent with the roadmap established by WADA and added the Agency shall be passing this information on to its independent Compliance Review Committee for their review.

Isinbayeva was barred from competing at the Rio Olympics due to the IAAF suspension but was elected to the IOC Athletes' Commission during last year's Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. The two-time Olympic gold medalist and a three-time World Champion had repeatedly criticized the IAAF decision and has since been a vocal critic of all Russian doping problems.

The decision to appoint Yelena Isinbayeva as head of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency is likely to prove a big blow to attempts of RUSADA to be renamed compliant with WADA following evidence of state-sponsored doping.

Earlier, the International Paralympic Committee and the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) have suspended the respective Russian national bodies. A reinstatement of the compliance of RUSADA with WADA is considered to be a critical step towards either of these suspensions being lifted.

Previously, a WADA-commissioned McLaren Report had claimed around 1,000 Russian athletes have been implicated in an "institutional" doping system. This report by Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren alleged that samples were manipulated and tampered with at event including the 2014 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games in Sochi.

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Albert Wolfgang
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