Russia names Olympic squad despite ban threat
MOSCOW: Russia’s Olympic Committee pressed on Wednesday with its preparations for the Rio Olympic Games despite the threat of a ban for state-run doping hanging over the country.
At a meeting in Moscow the executive board approved a 387-strong team — including star names like pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva, hurdler Sergei Shubenkov and tennis player Svetlana Kuznetsova — to compete at this summer’s games starting on August 5.
The team’s line-up includes the 68 track and field athletes, whose fate hinges on the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Lausanne, which is set to rule on Thursday on whether the IAAF had grounds to impose a blanket ban on Russia’s athletics federation.
“We today confirmed the composition of our team including the track and field athletes,” committee chief Alexander Zhukov told the press.
“The court decision will likely be tomorrow and tomorrow we will find out.”
Zhukov insisted that Russian sportsmen were still “capable of competing for medals” at the event in Rio and said they were training in Russia, Portugal and Brazil.
The preparations come despite a mammoth scandal that sees Russia under threat of a blanket Olympic ban following bombshell allegations of state-controlled cheating.
An independent WADA commission led by Canadian investigator Richard McLaren detailed an elaborate cheating scheme run by Russia’s sports ministry with help from the FSB state intelligence agency.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) said it would study “legal options” before deciding whether to ban Russia from the Rio Games following emergency talks on Tuesday.
A spokesman for the committee said Wednesday it would decide “within seven days” on whether to ban Russia from the Rio Games over rampant state-run doping.
The IOC ordered a disciplinary commission to look into what McLaren’s commission called a “state-dictated failsafe system” of drug cheating that included Russia’s secret service swapping dirty urine samples for clean ones through a hole in a wall in Sochi.
The IOC — which faces a race against the clock to reach a final decision on Russians in Rio — said it “will explore the legal options with regard to a collective ban of all Russian athletes for the Olympic Games 2016 versus the right to individual justice”.
Moscow has blasted what its sees as political interference in sports over the doping scandal and insists individual athletes should be punished but not the entire team.
A Russian diplomatic source said Wednesday that the current scandal “came against the backdrop of Washington calling for two years for Russia to be isolated, politically, economically and not in sports.”
“The aim of this is to pressure Russia in any way, she said.