Olga Zabelinskaya
Olga Zabelinskaya. Photo: Sirotti
Russian cyclist Olga Zabelinskaya plans to switch her nationality from Russia to Uzbekistan ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics to protect her participation in the games. The three-time Olympic medalist who served an 18-month doping ban in 2014 is planning the switch because of concerns Russian athletes will continue to face bans to compete in the Olympics by the IOC.

“I don’t feel my age and I’m ready to fight for podium places in Tokyo,” Zabelinskaya who rides for Cogeas–Mettler Pro Cycling said. “But you see what has been happening in Russian sport over the last two Olympic cycles. It all started in Rio, then the situation only deteriorated in Pyeongchang. I have a feeling that in Tokyo everything will be even worse.”

The 38-year-old was nearly stopped from competing at the 2016 Rio Olympics because of the IOC’s attempt to ban Russian athletes who had served a doping ban. She would go on to win a silver medal in the time trial when the ban was successfully challenged. In 2012, she earned bronze medals in the road race and time trial.

“I’m 99 per cent confident that my participation in the 2020 Olympics will be impossible under the Russian flag,” she told Match TV

The attempt to stop Russian athletes from competing came after an extensive state-sponsored doping regime was uncovered. At the 2014 Sochi Olympics and other international competitions, Russian employed systematic manipulation of the anti-doping system.

As a result, at the Pyeongchang winter Olympics, Russian athletes were forced to compete under a neutral flag.

The Russian Cycling Federation does not plan to support Zabelinskaya’s attempt to change nationality. The cycling body’s president Vyacheslav Ekimov called the decision “an unpleasant surprise”.

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