‘This is a humiliation’: more Russian Olympians banned in mounting Rio toll as rowers make it 108 athletes axed
The number of Russians banned from competing in Rio rises, and could increase further
Nineteen more Russian rowers have been banned from the Olympics, taking the toll of the nation’s athletes suspended from Rio to 108 after explosive revelations of state-run doping across Russian sport.
As the list of suspended Russians grew, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) continued to face fierce criticism for failing to ban Russia outright.
Germany’s Olympic discus champion Robert Harting launched a savage 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,” Bach noting that would-be Russian Olympians must clear “the highest hurdles” to be green-lighted for the Games, which start on August 5.
Five canoeists and two modern pentathletes were barred, with the number of Russians banned since Sunday standing at 41.
They are in addition to 67 track and field athletes already banned by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).
President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday said the absence of some Russian stars at the Rio Games would hit the quality of the competition.
“It’s obvious that the absence of Russian competitors – leaders in many disciplines – markedly lowers, and will lower the intensity of the fight and that means the spectacle at the upcoming events,” Putin told the members of the Russian Olympic team in the Kremlin.
“The other sportsmen understand that the quality of their medals will be different.”
The Russian strongman was speaking to 49 competitors including track and field stars Yelena Isinbayeva and Sergey Shubenkov who will miss the Games.
He slammed the broader decision to exclude some Russian athletes from the Games over bombshell revelations of state-sponsored doping.
“The current situation does not only go beyond the legal sphere, it goes beyond common sense,” Putin said.
While there was good news for Russian athletes competing in judo, equestrian, tennis and shooting, World Rowing (FISA) came down hard, banning 22 of Russia’s 28 rowers.
FISA said that those banned were “not at all considered to have participated in doping” but were being excluded as they “do not meet the conditions established by the IOC”.
“This is a humiliation” Russian rowing federation president Veniamin But told the R-Sport agency. “I am in shock, but we won’t stop the battle. Our Olympic Committee is holding discussions with the IOC on our behalf.”
With just six rowers Russia can only compete with one boat in Brazil, a men’s coxless four, after qualifying five boats.
Pavel Sozykin was the competitor banned by World Sailing, with the other six Russian sailors allowed to compete, and a replacement for Sozykin will be allowed.
The International Canoe Federation (ICF) said it had taken “swift action” to remove five canoe sprint paddlers from Rio after the release of additional information naming those implicated in the McLaren report.
The report by Canadian law professor Richard McLaren for the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) detailed an elaborate doping system in Russia directed by the sports ministry that affected more than 30 sports.
The banned five included Alexey Korovashkov, a five-time world champion who won a bronze medal in London four years ago, and Alexander Dyachenko, who took gold in a doubles kayak sprint.
“This is a bitter blow for the Olympic movement and we are saddened that our sport is implicated. We have taken swift action and removed all offending athletes where doping evidence exists,” said ICF secretary general Simon Toulson.
Modern pentathlon’s governing body said Maksim Kustov and Ilia Frolov had been implicated in the McLaren report and were being booted from Rio.
The report linked both to the so-called “Disappearing Positive Methodology”, meaning their positive drug tests at a Moscow laboratory in 2014 were never reported.
Time was running out for federations to scrutinise Russian competitors, some of whom are already in Brazil.
In addition to the ban on Russia’s entire track and field team over doping, seven swimmers, two weightlifters and a volleyballer have also been barred.
Yuliya Stepanova, the Russian 800m runner who lifted the lid on systematic doping and corruption in Russian athletics, is making one last-gasp appeal of her ban from the Rio Olympics.
Her inclusion is actually 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 announced plans on Monday to also appeal her ban at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
Matthieu Reeb, CAS secretary general, said it had yet to receive the appeal.
Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko – a key figure in the McLaren report who has been banned from Rio – has voiced confidence that the “majority” of the country’s 387-member team would be declared eligible for Rio.
In some rare good news for Russia, the International Shooting Sport Federation said that all 18 competitors nominated by Russia had been cleared because they had no positive drug tests on their record and were not mentioned in the McLaren report.
Most Russian competitors will fly out on Thursday, but it remains to be seen how many will actually take part in the Games because several federations have yet to weigh in.