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Russian athletics mess: Gloom and anger for athletes due to miss 2016 Rio Olympics

The international sports tribunal rejected an appeal by Russian athletes against a Rio Olympics ban amid mounting pressure for action over state-run doping in Russia.

Last Updated: Thursday, July 21, 2016 - 23:50
Russian athletics mess: Gloom and anger for athletes due to miss 2016 Rio Olympics

Zhukovsky: Russian athletes on Thursday reacted with a mixture of anger and despair after the Court of Arbitration for Sport dashed their dreams of competing at the Rio Olympics by rejecting an appeal against a ban for doping.

High jumper Maria Kuchina -- a medal hopeful for the Games -- was competing at an event near Moscow that she hoped would be a warm-up for Brazil when the news she had been dreading came through.

"My first reaction was: it`s just not true! How can it be! The world`s going crazy," 23-year-old Kuchina told journalists.

"It was supposed to be my first Games and it is a serious blow to me -- both as an athlete and as a person."

Other sports stars lashed out furiously against the ruling that Moscow has often portrayed as part of a broader campaign against Russia.

Two-time Olympic pole vault gold medallist Yelena Isinbayeva -- who had been hoping to end her stellar career with victory at her fifth Olympics -- said the ruling would deal a mortal blow to international athletics.

"Thank you all for this funeral for athletics," Isinbayeva, 34, told TASS.

"This is a blatant political order."

Later she wrote angrily on Instagram: "Let all those `clean` foreign athletes breathe a sigh of relief and win their pseudo-gold medals in our absence. Strength has always been feared."

World champion hurdler Sergey Shubenkov, 25, also posted a picture of himself holding his head and looking glum after the ruling.

"What a shame. Well done, congrats, enjoy "clean" sport," he wrote on Instagram.

On the other hand, Russia`s top hammer thrower Sergey Litvinov, known for his strong anti-doping stance, said he felt a sense of relief at the decision, even though it prevents him competing.

"I felt a kind of a relief after the CAS verdict was announced. Finally there was some kind of clarity," said the 30-year-old athlete, calling for Russia to "acknowledge its mistakes."

"We should stop looking for mistakes in WADA, IAAF and IOC statements and just look at ourselves. That would be much more useful," added Litvinov who was also taking part at the Zhukovsky meeting on Thursday.The CAS ruling backed up a decision from athletics governing body the IAAF to slap a blanket ban on Russia`s track and field team ahead of the Olympics over evidence of state-sponsored doping.

Official reaction echoed the response from the athletes as the authorities frantically claimed they had done all they could to avoid the ban and stop the rot in the sport.

"In my view, this is a subjective and somewhat politicised decision for which there is no legal basis," Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko told TASS news agency.

Mutko -- a close ally of President Vladimir Putin -- has clung onto his job despite the jaw-dropping scandal and later Thursday railed against international sporting authorities and the West at a rambling televised press conference.

"The court has taken a decision that violates the rights of clean athletes," he said. "We are going to continue to defend our dignity. It is time to go to a civil court."

The Kremlin also expressed "deep regret" over the move and said that it was unfair to ban all athletes from competing at the Games.

"The idea of collective responsibility from our point of view can hardly be considered acceptable," spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists.

"We are talking about athletes training for the Olympics who have no connection to doping, who have no connection to any accusations or suspicions," Peskov said.

"On this we can only express deep regret."

The situation could be set to get much worse for Moscow as the the International Olympic Committee said this week it would take into account the CAS ruling as it weighs up whether to ban all Russian competitors from Rio over more widespread doping accusations.


Earlier in the day, the international sports tribunal rejected an appeal by Russian athletes against a Rio Olympics ban amid mounting pressure for action over state-run doping in Russia.

The CAS ruling on track and field is seen as a key indicator as the IOC debates whether to order a blanket ban on Russia from the Rio Games that start August 5.

The IOC executive board is to hold more talks on Sunday and a decision on a ban could be announced after, an Olympic spokesperson said.

Russia is a sporting powerhouse whose absence from Rio would create the biggest crisis in decades for the Olympic movement.

But there have been widespread calls for exemplary sanctions against the state-orchestrated cheating campaign.

"This will scare a lot of people, or send a strong message that the sport is serious about cleaning up," six-time Olympic sprint title winner Usain Bolt of Jamaica said of the court ruling.

CAS said it had unanimously "dismissed" an appeal by the Russian Olympic Committee and 67 athletes against the IAAF ban.
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Russia`s Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko called the CAS decision "politicised" and illegal. Russia has denied any state involvement in the doping crisis.The 67 included two time Olympic pole vault champion Yelena Isinbayeva and world champion men`s 110m hurdler Sergey Shubenkov.

The IAAF ban covers all international competition and follows an investigation by the World Anti-Doping Agency last year which found widespread "state-sponsored" doping.
 

AFP
First Published: Thursday, July 21, 2016 - 23:50

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