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'Clean' Russian Athletes To Appeal Rio Ban To International Court

  • RFE/RL

Russian pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva says she will appeal a ban on Russian athletes at the Rio Olympics and is hopeful she'll succeed.

Russian pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva says she will appeal a ban on Russian athletes at the Rio Olympics and is hopeful she'll succeed.

Pole vault world-record holder Yelena Isinbayeva said she'll lead what could become a wave of Russian athletes appealing the ban on their country's participation in the Rio Olympics.

The International Olympic Committee on June 21 said Russian athletes will be barred from the Games in August unless they can prove they have not been tainted by the widespread doping that led to the ban.

Isinbayeva, who maintains she is clean, said the committee's stance makes her hopeful that she will be able to compete under the Russian flag after all.

"We still have to fight to compete... We have to file our case in court now. If I win my case at [the International Court of Arbitration for Sport], that will mean I am allowed to compete," she told reporters after winning the Russian championship in Cheboksary on June 21.

The two-time Olympic and three-time world champion praised International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach for making it possible for Russian and Kenyan athletes to clear their names.

"The most pleasant thing for me personally today is that all athletes who win their cases will compete under the Russian flag. That's a victory," she said. "I was desperate yesterday, but I'm very optimistic today."

Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) President Aleksandr Zhukov said he too is optimistic that Russian athletes will compete in Rio after all, thanks to the committee's decision.

"I believe there still is a possibility for the Russian track-and-field athletes to participate in the Olympic Games. I believe the majority of them will seek legal action in the International Court of Arbitration for Sport and they have fairly good chances to win the case," he said.

Zhukov claimed that only three of the drug tests conducted on Russian athletes in the last six months by foreign laboratories turned out positive for performance-enhancing drugs, excluding meldonium.

"It means that the majority of our athletes are clean. I believe these athletes will file complaints in court, and there are already such complaints. Our All-Russia Athletics Federation and the ROC will support these complaints," Zhokov said.

"We believe that the rights of the athletes, who were never involved in doping use and have recently been tested multiple times, must be protected," he said.

The banned Russian team's chief coach Yuri Borzakovsky said Russia is considering filing a collective lawsuit on behalf of clean athletes with the international sports court.

"Clean athletes should go to Rio," he said.

The committee may have been swayed somewhat by Russia's argument against the ban, which was presented to the committee by Zhukov before its decision on June 21.

Zhukov had argued that it was unjust to ban Russian athletes who have never been caught doping when the committee is allowing some Americans to compete who were previously suspended for doping.

Zhukov singled out the American sprinter Justin Gatlin -- the 2004 Olympic 100-meter gold medalist, who has twice been suspended for doping -- and his compatriot Tyson Gay, who failed a drug test in 2013.

"Do you really think it is fair to make it impossible for Yelena Isinbayeva and Sergei Shubenkov to participate in the Olympic Games which will be attended by Tyson Gay and twice disqualified for doping Justin Gatlin?" Zhukov asked.

"From the perspective of Russian athletes, it is an extreme injustice and humiliation."

Russia's Shubenkov won the 110-meter hurdles at last year's world championships.

"We consider it unfair on the vast majority of our athletes who have never doped and have not violated any criteria," Zhukov said. "They will be punished for the sins of others."

With reporting by AFP, dpa, AP, TASS, and Interfax