By Gene Cherry
PORTLAND, Oregon (Reuters) - Russian athletes will be missing when the IAAF world indoor championships get underway on Thursday and their global ban for doping should stay in place for the Rio Olympics, British athlete Lynsey Sharp said on Wednesday.
The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) voted overwhelmingly in November to suspend Russia from the sport for widespread, state-sponsored doping.
Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said on Wednesday he hoped the Russian Athletics Federation would be reinstated by the sport's governing body in May, allowing their athletes to compete at August's Olympics.
"I don't think they have demonstrated that they have the system in place," European 800 metres medalist Sharp told Reuters in an interview on the eve of the indoor championships.
"It is hard for us (athletes) to be able to see how they should be able to compete against us with what's is going on."
Sharp, whose 2012 European silver medal was upgraded to gold after Russian Yelena Arzhakova was suspended for doping, said she hoped the Russian ban would help lead to a cleaner sport.
"The most disappointing thing is that we are now four years on from (the) London (Olympics) and we are still hearing about individuals who are being caught," she said.
"The four-year delay is probably the most upsetting thing," she added. "Four years to catch someone. How much have they earned since London? It has just messed up the whole sport."
Lifetime bans should be handed out to doping cheats and nations with widespread doping should be heavily penalized, she added.
"People can say it would be terrible not to compete in Rio, so we will let them compete," Sharp said. "But it needs to be followed through and we need to make sure they are not allowed (to compete until) they have a system in place.
"It's not just the system they need to change, it's a completely different mind-set and I don't know how possible it is to get to the bottom of it."
Sharp was clearly not alone in her opinion.
"You can't clean up something like that in less than a year," American middle distance runner Brenda Martinez told a U.S. team news conference.
"You get benefit off these drugs."
Mutko, who believes Russia has already done enough to meet anti-doping standards, made his comments about lifting the ban at a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Sharp, though, said it should be athletes, not politicians, helping to make the call on the reinstatement of the Russians.
"No one knows better than the athletes themselves," she said. "To have that medal taken away from you, to know you have been cheated for years."
(Editing by Nick Mulvenney)