Rio de Janeiro – Yelena Isinbayeva walked away from competing but not from her sport on Friday.
The women’s pole vault world record holder announced her retirement as she focuses on a new career in sports politics and considers an offer to lead Russian track and field.
Isinbayeva was prevented from seeking a third Olympic title in Rio de Janeiro after the IAAF banned all but one Russian track and field athlete from the games over their country’s state-sponsored doping scandal.
She still traveled to Rio to campaign in the election for the athletes’ representative on the International Olympic Committee. A day after being among the four winning candidates, the 34-year-old Isinbayeva decided she doesn’t want to compete anymore.
“Today in Rio on August 19 2016, Yelena Isinbayeva is finishing her professional career,” she said close to the end of a 50-minute news conference.
“Yesterday’s election to the IOC commission inspired me,” Isinbayeva added through a translator. “It means I am not saying goodbye to the sport. I say goodbye to the pole, to my medals … I fulfilled my dreams.”
And without doping, she maintains.
“I have proved it again and again,” she said. “All my tests were negative.”
One of her priorities now is campaigning for Russia’s IAAF suspension to be lifted so fellow clean athletes can resume their professional careers. Isinbayeva could be taking on that mission as the top administrator in Russian athletics.
“I have received an offer to head up the federation,” Isinbayeva said. “It is an interesting offer but it is also a serious challenge.
“When I get back from the Olympics I will meet the president of the federation. We will talk about my future role. I find it very interesting … I think I can bring the federation back into the IAAF fold.”
Isinbayeva remains aggrieved about the IAAF’s treatment of Russia. She said it “speaks volumes about the IAAF” leadership that they didn’t congratulate her for being one of four successful candidates in the IOC athletes’ commission election.
“I am a bit offended,” she said. “We are the same team … but for some reason I didn’t receive any congratulations.”
Although Isinbayeva said she forgives IAAF President Sebastian Coe for the “injustice” of banning Russia, she said: “Let it be on their conscience. God will be their judge.”
Isinbayeva also railed against the “unfair” investigations by the World Anti-Doping Agency, which has published reports in the last year by investigators Dick Pound and Richard McLaren.
“All of the accusations that have leveled have been built upon assumptions, there are no facts, no proof but for some reason (McLaren’s) assumptions were sufficient to raise the question of banning the entire Russian team (from the Olympics),” Isinbayeva said. “I would like to see more facts, more specific proof against specific athletes.”
She urged sports administrators to be “dignified” in developing sport rather than fostering “some useful war.”
Isinbayeva won gold medals at the 2004 Athens Olympics and 2008 Beijing Games. She took bronze four years ago in London and will be elsewhere in Rio rather than watching the women’s Olympic pole vault final on Friday night.
“When you compete without Isinbayeva this isn’t going to be a fully-fledged gold medal,” she said