Double Olympic gold medallist Yelena Isinbayeva has claimed that Olympics chiefs and anti-doping authorities are discriminating against Russia, and violating her human rights as a result.
Isinbayeva – a pole vaulter who won gold at both the Athens and Beijing Olympics – returned to training last year after the birth of her daughter, Eva, in 2014. The 33-year-old is now hoping to compete at Rio 2016, the fifth Olympic Games of her career.
Her participation in the Games is in doubt, however, after the Russian athletics team's suspension from international competition. They have been banned since November, when an independent report from the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) revealed evidence of systematic, state-sponsored doping amongst Russian athletes
"I really hope this will be positively sorted out," she said. "I deserve it, it's my right. All of our young, talented, clean athletes deserve it, too. If they miss Rio, four years is a long time.
"I hope to see you in Rio but, if the decision goes against us, I will personally file a discrimination case at the court of human rights."
Isinbayeva has broken the world indoor and outdoor pole vaulting record 28 times, and wanted to draw attention to the fact that she has passed drugs tests all over the world. Speaking via Skype, she reportedly showed a handful of recent test forms to the camera. There is no suggestion she has ever been personally involved in doping.
She went on: "I am mad [about the ban]. How would you feel? This is my chance to win a third Olympic gold and write another chapter in my story but I am being asked to pay for the mistakes of others.
"I have worked hard to come back from giving birth. This could be a great accomplishment for women. I am angry because I am helpless; they're not giving me a chance to compete. It's all becoming very stressful.
"There is so much negativity about Russia at the moment but doping isn't just a Russian problem. Athletes from America, Jamaica and lots of other countries have failed tests and come back two years later. Only in Russia is the entire team banned. It's a violation of my human rights."
Isinbayeva expressed sympathy for those athletes cheated out of a medal, but asserted that doping is an international issue and emphasised individual responsibility for drugs cheats. WADA declared the Russian Anti-Doping Agency non-compliant with its code in November, after compelling evidence of positive drugs tests being methodically ignored or destroyed.
Some have suggested that Isinbayeva could still compete at Rio 2016 under the Olympic flag. She has rejected the idea, saying that she wants to see Russia's ban lifted so she can represent her country.
Isinbayeva added that she had never witnessed any doping or been asked to take banned substances. She will be in Brazil whether Russia's ban is lifted or not, as she bids to be elected to the International Olympic Committee's athletes panel.