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Hilliard expecting cleaner Rio competition

AAP logoAAP 31/07/2016 By John Salvado

Australian head coach Craig Hilliard says the Olympic ban imposed on Russia will have other cheating athletes running scared, which should lead to a cleaner track and field competition in Rio.

Hilliard believes the playing field has altered most in the middle-distance races, which augurs well for the likes of Australians such as Ryan Gregson, who is in career-best form in the 1500m.

"There has been a bit of a flow-on for other athletes who are going (to Rio)," Hilliard told reporters at the Australian training camp in Florida.

"Other athletes with blood passports that are sitting here, if they have been on the gear then they are going to be tested again so I think there is a bit of a fear aspect there which is good, it's fantastic.

"I am not that naive to believe it will be a completely level playing field but at least I think it has put a lot more fear amongst a lot of the athletes, which is good for us."

On July 21, the Court of Arbitration for Sport rejected an appeal from Russia against the suspension of its track and field squad from the Rio Games following revelations of systemic doping.

But the International Olympic Committee decided not to extend the ban to all sports, with Russia to be represented by a much-depleted team in Rio, way down from an initial squad of 387.

Hilliard said he was glad the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) had made the tough call to ban Russia under the presidency of Sebastian Coe.

"It was an opportunity for Seb to stamp his authority in the position he held," said Hilliard.

"He and the IAAF were under fire for a whole bunch of reasons and they finally took a stance.

"It had to happen.

"From the IOC aspect, am I shocked (that there was no blanket ban on Russia)? No.

"Disappointed? One hundred per cent I am disappointed as I think most people would be."

The only Russian set to compete in the track and field competition in Rio is US-based long jumper Darya Klishina, who will do so under a neutral banner.

The women's long jump, high jump and pole vault are among the events where Russia has been strongest in recent years, raising the medal hopes of Australians Brooke Stratton, Eleanor Patterson and Alana Boyd.

"Eleanor by her own admission is not quite where she needs to be," Hilliard said of the reigning Commonwealth high jump champion.

"She is a bit under what she did domestically and what she has done in the past but she's a super-talented athlete.

"But it's such a technical event that one tiny little change on the run-up and bang you are back in the game again."

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