Rio 2016

Banned Russian Pole Vaulter Elected as Member of International Olympic Committee

Russian pole-vaulting star Yelena Isinbayeva, banned from the Olympics in the wake of the Russian doping scandal, has just been elected to the IOC.

by Leander Schaerlaeckens
19 August 2016, 8:41am

Wikimedia Commons

Yelena Isinbayeva is a Russian pole vaulting star and the current world record-holder. At 34, she has won two Olympic gold medals; the World Championships three times; the World Indoor Championships four times; and the World Athletics Final five times.

However, Isinbayeva is also banned from competing at the Rio Olympics, just like everybody else on Russia's track and field teams. She has never tested positive for doping, but was swept up in the exorcism of the Russian athletics programme by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). Russia was found to have cheated systemically, perhaps over the course of decades. Her appeal was denied by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

In spite of her ban, Isinbayeva was elected as a member of the International Olympic Committee on Thursday, because only the IOC could allow a banned athlete to enter the IOC.

Just days ago, she told Russian news agency TASS that she "never will agree with the fact that they banned me. I will never forgive that."

"What can I say to whoever will be the champion?" she added. "They will be second by default." Isinbayeva won gold in Athens in 2004 and Beijing in 2008. She came third at London 2012.

The IOC membership in the Athletes' Commission is voted on by the athletes at the Olympics. Isinbayeva had been allowed to run in spite of her ban, and in spite of missing the deadline to declare her candidacy by a month, according to Inside the Games. There were 23 candidates for four spots, and Isinbayeva, who had been seen all over the Athletes' Village – again, despite her ban – was one of four to garner a seat.

Less than half the 11,245 eligible Olympians showed up to vote. Isinbayeva received 1,365 votes.

Isinbayeva, who has been highly critical of the IAAF for suspending the bulk of the Russian team, made the IOC while IAAF president Sebastian Coe did not. Her eight-year (!) term begins at the closing ceremonies, and she will be eligible to vote on bids for future Olympics.

She has previously announced that she will also run for president of the Russian Athletics Association.

The last time Isinbayeva made international headlines was when she came out in support of Russia's ban on "gay propaganda," after which she served as a mayor for the Olympic Village at the 2014 Winter Games in Socchi.

[Inside the Games]