Pearson: Russia ban a ‘huge stepping stone’
Olympic champion Sally Pearson has applauded the World Anti-Doping Agency's recommendation to follow the lead of athletics and boot Russia out of international sport.
Russia was kicked out of athletics more than four years ago but the IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federations) has been fighting a lonely battle as most other sports have dragged their heels on punishing Russia for blatant drug cheating.
That's finally changed after WADA announced Russia would be banned from all major sport competitions for the next four years and Pearson said it was not before time.
"In our sport that's been the case for a number of years, Pearson told The Daily Telegraph.
"So it's nice that WADA has now recognized that should happen for all sports for the next four years, that's a huge stepping stone for international sport."
Although Pearson rarely competed against Russians for medals, the recently retired Olympic and world champion hurdler has always been an outspoken critic of the country's atrocious doping record.
She welcomed the decision to ban Russia for four years but remains sceptical about the decision to let Russian athletes who can prove they were not involved in state sponsored doping to compete as individuals.
"A lot of people think that the neutral athletes shouldn't be competing as well if they really want to punish them but I'm kind of torn," she said.
"On one hand I think whether they should have done (banned) all of the athletes and not allowed the neutral flag or whether they should allow the neutral flag because if athletes can prove that they have been out of the Russian system for a fair while and been in other countries then yeah that's fair enough."
Australia's newly crowned world javelin champion Kelsey-Lee Barber also backed the move to throw the Russians out, saying the move to extend the ban beyond athletics was a win for clean sport.
"The IAAF has held their stance quite strongly on this in the past few years and I really respect that," she said.
"I think it's really important for the sport because athletes work really hard to be at the top and we want to make sure it's a fair playing field and until Russia can say that they're playing by the rules I think it's really good for athletes to know that something is being done behind the scenes."
Marathon great Steve Moneghetti said Australian athletes needed to be careful not to get distracted by the Russian doping scandal, advising them not to even think about the issue.
"If I put my athlete hat on, I'd be thinking to myself 'who cares? I can only control what I can control. I wouldn't even read it, I wouldn't pay any attention to it because it doesn't affect my preparation for the Olympic Games. If it does, then you're not in the right frame of mind."