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Russians Angered By Court's Rejection Of Olympic Appeal


Olympic pole-vault champion Yelena Isinbayeva is just one of many Russians who has been sharply critical of a Swiss arbitration court's decision to reject an appeal against a ban on her country's track-and-field athletes competing in the Summer Games in Rio. (file photo)

Russian officials and athletes expressed anger after a Swiss arbitration court rejected an appeal by the country's track-and-field athletes against a ban on their participation in next month's Summer Olympics in Brazil.

The July 21 decision by the Swiss-based Court of Arbitration for Sports came amid a flood of damning reports documenting a widescale, state-sponsored doping program in Russia, and a sophisticated effort to disguise it.

The court rejected arguments from 68 Russian track-and-field athletes who were challenging a ban on their participation in the games, which begin on August 5.

The athletes, and Russia's track-and-field federation, were banned last month by the governing body of world athletics, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), following reports of state-sponsored doping of Russian athletes.

The scale and sophistication of doping in Russia was further revealed earlier this week, with the publication of a damning investigative report by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

Among other things, the so-called McLaren report documented a multiyear program to disguise positive drug tests for select sportsmen and women, and the involvement of Russia's main security agency in the scheme during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko, who was named in the McLaren report, called the Swiss court's decision "somewhat political" and having "no legal basis."

"We are very upset with the decision," he said in Moscow. "I think this decision, of course, violates the rights of clean and honest athletes and of course creates the precedent of collective responsibility."

'A Crime Against Sport'

Yelena Isinbayeva, the Olympic pole-vault champion and world-record holder, said the Swiss court's decision was a "blatant political order."

The McLaren report prompted the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to consider whether there was a legal basis for barring all Russians from participating in the Rio games, an unprecedented move.

The decision by the IOC is expected early next week.

“It is a crime against sport,” said Valentina Rodionenko, the coach of Russia's gymnastics team.

"We are not panicking, everyone is preparing, everyone is in the mood, everyone believes and will believe till the very end,” she said.

At the Kremlin, President Vladimir Putin did not immediately react to the decision, though in the past he has alternated between lamenting the presence of doping in sports and alleging a conspiracy against Russian athletes.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on July 21 that he regretted the ruling, adding that applying "collective responsibility [to all athletes] can hardly be acceptable."

The Swiss court left the door open for some Russian athletes to participate in Rio, saying that was a decision up to the IOC.

The IOC will have to rule on whether to allow Russian track athletes Yulia Stepanova and Darya Klishina -- both of whom are based in the United States and do not train in Russia -- to take part in the Olympics. The IAAF has approved both to compete in Rio.

Russians reacted to news of the Swiss court's reaction with bitterness and in some cases echoed the official line from Moscow suggesting the process was politicized.

"I believe it's nonsense," Moscow resident Tamara Obivalkina told Reuters. "Many athletes have been waiting and training for these [Olympic] Games. And suddenly when someone has found some doping somewhere, they are all banned now without exception? The only thing I am confused about is why this only concerns our athletes, haven't other countries used [doping] as well? There is pressure [on Russia]; this is politics."

Cheboksary resident Svetlana said: "That's very sad, what else can I say? I think it's a wrong decision. We will always win. We will win anyway against all odds."

With reporting by Reuters and TASS
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