The IAAF could all-but guarantee American Jenn Suhr a gold medal if it bans the entire Russian track team from the Rio de Janeiro Games.
Suhr is hoping that doesn’t happen.
The defending Olympic champion said Thursday that she wants to compete against the top competition this Summer in Rio — and that means Yelena Isinbayeva, the winner in 2004 and ’08 and the world record-holder. “If you don’t have your best people in the event, then it’s not really the true event,” Suhr said Thursday.
Her husband and coach, Rick Suhr, went even further.
“If you’re going to have an Olympic final, you’re going to want Jenn in there and you’re going to want Yelena Isinbayeva in there. It’s the Ali-Frazier” of pole vaulting, he said.
“Without them, is it really even the Olympic final?” Rick Suhr said. “They’re the greatest pole vaulters who have ever touched a pole. The spectators and the world deserve to see the best people jump.”
Track’s international governing body is expected to decide on Friday whether to ban the entire Russian track and field team from the Rio Games as punishment for a widespread, state-backed doping scheme. Russia has insisted that it has abided by all international requests to clean up its program and that its athletes should be allowed to compete in Rio.
On Thursday, Isinbayeva wrote in The New York Times that she understood the need “to take strong action to eradicate doping.”
“But I do not think it is fair to forbid me and other clean Russian athletes to compete — athletes who have repeatedly proved they are innocent of cheating,” she said. “The IAAF should not punish all of us for the wrongdoing of some.”
“If people are clean, they should be allowed to compete,” she said before the Boost Boston Games, which will include a “street meet,” with the 100 meter event and the pole vault and long jump on an Olympic specification track temporarily laid out along the Boston Common.
Suhr, who won the gold medal in London and is the current indoor world champion and world record-holder, stressed that she would like to see the sport cleaned up but doesn’t see the point in punishing those who haven’t been found guilty of doping.
Rick Suhr said governing bodies could kill the sport they are trying to clean up.
“Track is dying,” he said. “The only way you are ever going to get fans out watching track and field again is to put the absolute best out there.”