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More Russians Banned From Olympics As Depleted Team Flies To Rio

  • RFE/RL

Russian Olympic team members pose for a family photo with Patriarch Kirill (center) at Uspensky Cathedral in Moscow on July 27.

Russian Olympic team members pose for a family photo with Patriarch Kirill (center) at Uspensky Cathedral in Moscow on July 27.

A depleted Russian team has departed for the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro without more than 100 athletes who have been banned in connection with the country's scandal over the use of performance-enhancing drugs.

Even as the athletes' charter flight was flying to Brazil on July 28, international sports federations continued to announce further bans against Russian athletes under strict new rules imposed in connection with Russia's alleged government-sponsored doping program.

More than 100 of 387 Russian athletes -- including the entire track-and-field team -- have been barred from going because of failed drug tests and evidence of widespread doping and state-led cover-ups.

The latest bans include three Russian weightlifters who won medals at the 2012 London Olympics and one member of the Russian wrestling team who reportedly was on the flight to Rio.

Three Russian cyclists previously sanctioned for doping were also withdrawn on July 28 after the flight left and three other riders were under investigation.

There has been no word yet about the fate of 21 athletes on Russia's gymnastics team.

The International Gymnastics Federation said earlier this week that it had established a "pool of eligible Russian athletes" and was awaiting approval from the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

Russian Olympic Committee chief Aleksandr Zhukov has said 250 athletes on the 387-member Russian team have been cleared for Olympic competition.

Zhukov said the final list of Russian athletes cleared to go to Rio will be released on July 30.

On June 27, Russian President Vladimir Putin met with the Russian Olympic team before their charter flight departed from Moscow.

Putin complained that the ban on the entire Russian track and field team was "indiscriminate" and "pure discrimination."

He said at the Kremlin send-off ceremony that the ban against all 67 track and field athletes penalizes Russian stars like pole-vaulting champion Yelena Isinbayeva, who has never tested positive for doping.

Putin said: "We can't accept indiscriminate disqualification of our athletes with an absolutely clean doping history. We cannot and will not accept what in fact is pure discrimination."

"Not only have our athletes who never faced any specific accusations been hurt, this is a blow to the entire global sports and the Olympic Games," he said. "It's obvious that the absence of Russian competitors -- leaders in many disciplines -- markedly lowers...the intensity of the fight and that means the spectacle at the upcoming events."

But senior officials for the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) have complained that the IOC has set a bad precedent by allowing any individual Russian athletes to compete at Rio.

The IOC ruling left the decision on whether to clear individual Russian athletes up to the international federations for each sports -- provided they had no previous history of doping.

But WADA officials have argued that the evidence of a systemic Russian government-sponsored doping program, along with efforts by Russian state officials to cover up doping violations by Russian athletes, should have been dealt with by imposing a blanket ban against all Russian athletes during the 2016 Olympics.

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