MONTE CARLO: Russian doping whistleblower Yuliya Stepanova has become the first athlete to obtain exceptional eligibility to compete in international competition as a neutral athlete.

Middle-distance runner Stepanova and her husband Vitaly, a former Russian anti-doping agency official, provided evidence for the damning World Anti-Doping Agency report that led to Russia’s suspension from international athletics in November.

The former drugs cheat’s revelations helped uncover the major doping problem in her country and she left Russia to go into hiding after disclosing the issue.

The doping review board of the International Association of Athletics Federations has “unanimously” accepted the application of Stepanova as someone that made a “truly exceptional contribution” to the protection and promotion of clean athletes, fair play and the integrity and authenticity of the sport.

Stepanova is now eligible to compete in international competitions as an independent neutral athlete.

However, what happens now remains unclear.

Last month the IAAF upheld a ban on Russian athletes competing at Rio 2016, ruling that the country had not made sufficient progress on reforming its doping controls.

However, it amended its rules to clear a path for a small number of Russian athletes to participate under an independent flag, provided they could demonstrate they had been subject to doping controls outside their home country.

Subsquently, however, International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach said any Russian athlete cleared by the IAAF or Court of Arbitration for Sport could compete for the Russian Olympic Committee team under the Russian flag.

The IAAF today said Stepanova’s participation as a neutral athlete in international competition is still subject to acceptance by the organiser of the competition in question, in accordance with the rules of that competition.

The IAAF has immediately informed European Athletics of Stepanova’s eligibility given that the European Athletics Championships take place in Amsterdam from July 6-10.

So far the IAAF has received more than 80 applications from Russian athletes seeking exceptional eligibility to compete in an individual capacity.

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