Isinbayeva quits with Coe broadside

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Dave James
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Rio de Janeiro (AFP) - Two-time Olympic pole vault champion Yelena Isinbayeva announced her retirement Friday with a bitter broadside at international athletics chief Sebastian Coe over the Olympic ban imposed on Russian athletes for state-sponsored doping.

"Yelena Isinbayeva is finishing her career today," the 34-year-old told reporters a day after being elected onto the International Olympic Committee's athletes commission.

"I thought I would be very sad but the election has inspired me. I am not saying goodbye to sport, just to my sport.

"But I am happy I have fulfilled myself and achieved my dreams," added the world record holder.

Isinbayeva was unable to defend her title in Rio after the Russian squad was banned by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) over a state-sponsored doping scandal which rocked track and field.

Had she not been excluded from the Russian team in Rio, she would have been lining up for the pole vault final in the Olympic Stadium later Friday.

"Why am I here and not preparing for the final? Because the IAAF set criteria that were impossible to meet," she said.

"How can one person ban someone from training and living in their own country?

"These are impossible odds; we could not fulfil these criteria."

Isinbayeva said she has undergone five dope tests in six months, all conducted by foreign testers.

"My victories are all clean, all my tests have been negative. I am a victim of circumstances. At first I thought I would never forgive them for banning me.

"Now I have changed my mind. If the president of the IAAF believes that they did an honest thing and that we were treated fairly, then let god be the judge. It will be on their conscience."

"I am proof that clean sport exists in Russia. It's nonsense to ban everyone because a few have doped," added Isinbayeva who blasted the damning McLaren report into Russian doping as being "based on assumptions".

Isinbayeva was one of four new members elected onto the IOC athletes commission on Thursday and will serve an eight-year term.

- 'Injustice' -

She is also on the equivalent body at the IAAF and claims that Coe, the president, has no contact with her.

"I forgive the president and the executive board for the injustice," she said.

"But only one member of the IAAF congratulated me, I was offended by this."

She added: "The president (Coe) doesn't talk to me and avoids all meetings with me. If I had the chance to talk to him, I'd ask why did he ban me."

Coe refused to get into a war of words with the Russian diva.

"She becomes the third athlete on the IOC commission, that has to be a good thing for our sport, so we look forward to working with all three of them," Coe told AFP.

"She's been a phenomenal athlete that has been one of the stars of our sport."

Isinbayeva also repeated her assertion that whoever wins the women's pole vault Friday will not be a "fully-fledged" champion.

Isinbayeva recorded the second-best pole vault of the year when she cleared 4.90m in Cheboksary.

Only Sandi Morris of the United States has gone higher with 4.93m in Houston in July.

Olympic gold medal favourite Jenn Suhr of the United States has a best of 4.82m.

"I recorded 4.90m and this was after a break I took from the sport to have my daughter," said the Russian.

"Whoever wins tonight will do so without Isinbayeva, it won't be a fully-fledged. The champion will feel it's not entirely gold because she didn't beat Isinbayeva."

Isinbeyava was applauded and presented with a bouquet of flowers at the end of her news conference.

She was asked if Russian president Vladimir Putin had congratulated her on her election to the commission.

"Let's just keep that secret," she said before leaving the stage with a regal wave and a kiss towards the assembled media.