MOSCOW, August 23 (R-Sport) - The whereabouts of a top Cuban hurdler who fled his team at the Moscow world athletics championships earlier this month remained a mystery Friday with the Russian Federal Migration Service claiming it could not shed any light on the situation.
Orlando Ortega, 22, disappeared after failing to qualify for the final of the 110m hurdles at the world championships last week and didn’t return home, according to a website whose report appeared to be confirmed by the Cuban Embassy in Moscow.
"We have no information," an FMS spokesperson told RIA Novosti, R-Sport's parent news agency.
On Wednesday, the deporcuba.com site reported that "Ortega has abandoned the island's delegation" in a move it called a renunciation of the island state.
The head of the All-Russian Athletics Federation, Valentin Balakhnichev, said on Thursday that he was not interested in trying to naturalize Ortega so he could compete for Russia.
Sports competitions in foreign countries have often been exploited by athletes seeking to defect, especially from authoritarian states such as Cuba and the Soviet Union before the 1991 collapse.
Ortega's best international achievement is a bronze medal in the 2011 Pan American Games in Guadalajara; he made the final of the London 2012 Olympics last year but finished sixth.
His reported disappearance comes two months after his countryman and Beijing 2008 Olympic champion Dayron Robles was banned from representing Cuba for unspecified "problems of discipline and sportsmanship," the federation said.
Ortega himself was suspended in July on similarly vague charges of "serious indiscipline" but the ban was lifted ahead of the Moscow championships.
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