MOSCOW -- Russia's sports minister has called a ban on seven of the country's women athletes just days before the Olympics "unprecedented," but indicated there would be no appeal until after the Games, Russian media reported.
"The incident that happened to our athletes is unprecedented, I just don't remember anything like it," state television channel Vesti-24 quoted Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko as saying.
"We don't really want to create a scandal, convinced that something is one way and then get proof that directly contradicts it. We especially don't want to do this directly in Beijing."
The seven Russian track and field athletes, five of whom were set to compete in the August 8-24 Games, were charged with fraudulently substituting urine samples during a doping control process and suspended on July 31 by the IAAF, athletics' governing body.
"When one week ahead of the Games they take out a whole row of likely medallists, it's simply not something you can call accidental," Mutko was quoted as saying by Vesti-24.
"But it's hardly worth jumping to conclusions without carefully getting into the nuances of the issue, or calling it 'political'," he said.
Mutko said careful steps must be followed to avoid creating a scandal.
"If the athletes are guilty, they will be punished. If we see that the international sporting organisations have not followed the letter of the law, then we will be discussing this differently. Perhaps in court or other means of defence," he said.
World indoor 1,500-meters champion Yelena Soboleva on August 1 denied manipulating her doping samples, and called it a "provocation staged deliberately to knock out potential medallists," in an interview in the business daily "Kommersant."
The other six banned athletes are twice world 1,500-meters champion Tatyana Tomashova, distance runners Yuliya Fomenko and Svetlana Cherkasova, European discus champion Darya Pishchalnikova, former hammer world-record-holder Gulfia Khanafeyeva and former world 5,000-meters champion Olga Yegorova.
Russian newspapers said the bans appeared to be a foreign plot to deprive the national team of at least five golds in Beijing.