Moscow: President Vladimir Putin will meet members of Russia`s Olympic team on Wednesday as the list of its athletes banned from the Rio Games over revelations of state-run doping soared above 100.
An AFP journalist at the Kremlin said the athletes to meet Putin included banned track and field stars Yelena Isinbayeva, Sergey Shubenkov and Maria Kuchina, who are barred from competing next month in Rio.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) sparked fierce criticism on Sunday when it resisted a blanket ban in favour of allowing individual sports federations to make the call on which Russians can go to Rio.
International sports federations are now scrambling to vet Russian athletes as time ticks down to the start of the Games on August 5.
Putin, who has made sporting success a priority in a bid to harness national pride, is set to meet 49 athletes, including those approved for Rio and those set to miss out, at a ceremony in the Kremlin.
The influential head of the country`s Orthodox Church will then bless the scandal-tainted team ahead of its departure for Brazil on Thursday. The exact number who will actually go remains unclear.
"At the meeting there will be the team members who are going to Rio and those who are not going as we are convinced anyway that they are also part of the team," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists.
Russia`s track and field team -- including Isinbayeva and Co. -- was already banned from Rio over state-sponsored doping, but its Olympic Committee last week optimistically named a 387-strong squad for the Games.
Since the IOC decision at the weekend, the number of Russian competitors allowed to take part has steadily decreased.
Rowing`s international governing body FISA was the latest to get tough with Russia, announcing late on Tuesday that 22 of 28 Russian competitors had been banned under strict criteria imposed by the IOC.
That took the number of Russian athletes banned since Sunday to 41, in addition to the 67 track and field athletes already banned by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).
Sixteen Russians from its fencing team have though been cleared, the sport`s governing body said.
The head of Russia`s trampolining federation, Nikolai Makarov, told TASS news agency that he had received "verbal permission" from the sport`s international authorities that the team will be allowed to compete.
The latest doping scandal to rock Olympic and Russian sport was triggered this month by Canadian law professor Richard McLaren for the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), whose report detailed an elaborate doping system directed by the Moscow sports ministry that affected more than 30 sports over four years. Controversially, among the Russians banned is Yuliya Stepanova, the 800m runner who lifted the lid on systematic doping and corruption in Russian athletics.
Stepanova, who fled Russia and is reviled by many back home, is making one last-gasp appeal of her IOC ban.
Her inclusion is backed by the IAAF and many anti-doping officials, who have praised her whistleblowing efforts, but was nixed by an IOC ethics commission.
Four-time world breaststroke champion Yulia Efimova also plans to appeal her ban at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
The IOC has received praise from Russia but stinging criticism from elsewhere for failing to impose a total ban on the country over shocking evidence of a state-organised system to cheat.
Germany`s Olympic discus champion Robert Harting launched a verbal attack on IOC president Thomas Bach, calling his compatriot "part of the doping system not the anti-doping system".
Bach fired back that the decision to leave individual sports federations to decide which Russians could compete "respects the right of every clean athlete around the world," noting that would-be Russian Olympians must clear "the highest hurdles" to make the Games.