Russian athletes can target Olympics after reinstatement of neutrals scheme

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(Reuters) - World Athletics has reinstated the Authorised Neutral Athlete (ANA) scheme to allow up to 10 Russians to qualify for this year’s Olympic Games if they meet certain criteria, the organisation confirmed on Thursday.

World Athletics’ Russia Taskforce chairman Rune Andersen confirmed that a maximum of 10 athletes from the country would now be able to apply to compete under a neutral flag ahead of the European summer season, if Russia's athletics federation (RusAF) continues to implement their plan to "rebuild trust".

RusAF has been suspended since 2015 after a report commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) found evidence of mass doping among track and field athletes.

The process by which Russian athletes had in the past been cleared to compete internationally despite the federation's suspension was halted last March.

There were 29 Russian athletes who took part under a neutral flag at the World Championships in Doha in 2019.

Andersen said RusAF has been set certain Key Performance Indicators (KPI) in their bid to clean up the sport in the country and a failure to implement these would likely see a blanket ban on athletes once more.

"What might happen if the KPIs are not met?" Andersen told reporters. "The task force will discuss internally and give a recommendation to the council. It will then be about the nature of the breaches to know what will happen."

Andersen said late last year that he had been given hope that RusAF would work towards reinstatement to World Athletics after the election of new federation president Pyotr Ivanov.

RusAF has been implementing the roadmap to reinstatement since March 1.

(Reporting by Nick Said; Editing by Toby Davis)