By Mitch Phillips
LONDON (Reuters) - Three Russian athletes, including the women's defending European indoor pole vault champion, were cleared on Thursday to compete in international competition under a neutral flag after proving their anti-doping credentials.
The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) said pole vaulter Anzhelika Sidorova -- European champion indoors and out -- sprinter Kristina Sivkova and hammer thrower Aleksei Sokirskii all met the "exceptional eligibility criteria" after showing they had undergone dope testing in an environment considered acceptable by the doping review board.
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Sidorova and Sivkova are now eligible to compete in the March 3-5 European championships in Belgrade, along with long jumper Darya Klishina and middle-distance runner Yuliya Stepanova, who were declared eligible previously.
Sokirskii is free to compete in the annual European Throwing Cup in the Canary Islands scheduled for March 11-12.
"Their participation as neutral athletes in international competition is still subject to acceptance by the individual athlete and the organiser of the competition in question, in accordance with the rules of that competition," the IAAF said in a statement.
All other Russians remain ineligible as the country's athletics federation is suspended from all competition as a result of widespread state-sponsored doping and corruption.
IAAF President Sebastian Coe said: “The application process to compete internationally as neutral athletes is about our desire to support the hopes and aspirations of all clean athletes including Russian athletes who have been failed by their national system.
"While prioritising applications based upon the entry deadlines of the competitions concerned, the primary responsibility of the Doping Review Board must always be to safeguard the integrity of competition."
The IAAF has received a total of 48 applications from Russian athletes to be allowed to compete. Six of them have been declined while the rest are still under review.
(This version of the story corrects to make clear two athletes cleared for European indoors, one for European Throwing Cup)
(Editing by Ian Ransom)