But the I.A.A.F. had the collective guts to suspend the Russian Athletics Federation in 2015 and then, more surprisingly, to maintain that ban for the Olympics last summer in Rio de Janeiro, despite considerable pushback. Since then, the I.A.A.F. has had the resolve to stick with the decision until the Russian reform process comes much closer to running its course.
This is all the more laudable because no other international sports federation has seen fit to follow suit, although the Paralympic movement has also maintained its Russian ban.
It has made for quite a contrast this summer. In Budapest last month at the world aquatics championships, the Russian team was officially present and finished third in the medal count with 25. It heard its national anthem repeatedly, as 11 of the medals were gold.
“That’s swimming; we are athletics,” Sebastian Coe, the president of the I.A.A.F., said in an interview last week, using the international term for track and field. “We made a decision that we felt was in the best interests of the sport, and one thing I’m genuinely pleased about is that I believe we are making progress, and I don’t think we would have made that progress had we not taken a tough stance in the first place. And having neutral athletes here is a sign of progress.”
Nineteen Russian athletes competed in London, having become eligible by establishing that they had been subject to credible and consistent testing.
That does not make the reality on the ground any less odd. Klishina was the only Russian track athlete authorized to participate in the Rio games, but she still competed for the Russian Olympic team.
In London, the Russians taking part as authorized neutral athletes, or A.N.A.s, competed with shoe-company logos on their uniforms but no Russian logos. And when Lasitskene, the only A.N.A. gold medalist and the first neutral athlete ever to win at the worlds, stood atop the podium on Saturday night, the anthem that was played to honor…