Russian track champions battle federation over reform

<p>
              FILE - In this file photo dated Monday, Sept. 30, 2019, participating as a neutral athlete Mariya Lasitskene clears the bar during the women's high jump finals at the World Athletics Championships in Doha, Qatar.  Sanctions handed down by the World Anti-Doping Agency on Monday Dec. 9, 2019, mean there won't be a Russian flag or anthem, but athletes including Lasitskene said she's still aiming for the Tokyo Olympics,“I didn't believe the stories that everything will be fine. What has happened today is a disgrace," she wrote on Instagram. (AP Photo/Morry Gash, FILE)
            </p>

MOSCOW (AP) — Russia’s leading track and field athletes are in a war of words with their own federation and want more of a voice in the way the sport is run.

They’re frustrated with the slow pace of reforms at the federation, which has been suspended since 2015 over doping offenses, and voiced those concerns on Thursday.

World high jump champion Mariya Lasitskene and former world champion hurdler Sergei Shubenkov are among those calling for earlier elections at the federation and a seat on the board for athletes. The resistance is unusual for Russian sports, where federations typically have extensive say in athletes’ careers.

They’ve criticized the federation’s glacial pace of reforms on doping, arguing it puts their careers at risk, and stepped up their attacks after former president Dmitry Shlyakhtin quit in November. He and other officials are accused of providing forged medical documents for an athlete who wasn’t available for drug testing.

Lasitskene and Shubenkov have turned the federation’s normally docile athletes’ commission into a hotbed of criticism.

In a statement published on the commission’s Instagram page on Thursday, they call for fresh elections for the federation’s top posts — the current acting president is a close ally of Shlyakhtin — and a voting seat on the board to represent athletes. That would go to former pole vaulter Rodion Gataullin, Shubenkov told The Associated Press in a text message.

The rebel athletes are also refusing to meet with federation leadership at a planned event on Friday in Moscow, until they feel their concerns have been addressed.