No Russians, few stars in World Indoor C'ships
WITH no Russians, few stars and the sport engulfed in a doping crisis, the world indoor athletics championships begin this week with officials holding their breath and eager to put the spotlight back on the track.
Doping scandals involving Russian, Kenyan and Ethiopian athletes have left a dark cloud hanging over the sport and will likely weigh heavily on the March 17-20 competition that will feature 600 athletes from 150 countries.
The absence of Jamaican sprint king Usain Bolt - who does not race indoors - along with Americans Justin Gatlin and Tyson Gay and rising Canadian Andre de Grasse will take much of the sparkle out of the meeting's glamour event: the 60m dash.
American world and Olympic champions Allyson Felix and Sanya Richards-Ross and Britain's double Olympic gold medallist Mo Farah will also skip the event, creating concern organisers will be unable to fill the modest 7,000-seat temporary facility.
The no-shows leave American heptathlon world record holder Ashton Eaton as the marquee attraction at the largest athletics meet held in the United States since the event's 1987 edition.
Russia, who traditionally battled with the US to be the sport's dominant force, will not be in Portland, having been banned by the IAAF after a World Anti-Doping Agency probe uncovered evidence of what it termed state-sponsored doping.
The absence of Russian athletes will be felt during the first day of competition as the women's pole vault will take place without Russian double Olympic champion and outdoor world record holder Yelena Isinbayeva.