Rus­sia’s de­pleted Games team heads for Rio

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS -

MOSCOW — A de­pleted Rus­sian team de­parted for the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro on Thurs­day, miss­ing dozens of ath­letes who were ex­cluded amid the coun­try’s dop­ing scan­dal.

Team mem­bers left on a char­ter flight from Moscow’s Shereme­tevo air­port to Brazil, a day af­ter a farewell cer­e­mony with Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin in the Krem­lin.

More than 100 ath­letes from what was orig­i­nally a 387-strong team have been barred from com­pet­ing in Rio de Janeiro by in­ter­na­tional sports fed­er­a­tions un­der sanc­tions most Rus­sian ath­letes con­sider un­fair.

“We’re af­ter medals, that’s it,” hand­ball player Anna Sen said. “We need to fight for those ath­letes who were dis­qual­i­fied.”

Volleyball player Sergei Te­tyukhin, a four-time Olympic medal­list, will be Rus­sia’s flag-bearer for the open­ing cer­e­mony in Rio, ac­cord­ing to an In­sta­gram post by pole vaulter Ye­lena Is­in­bayeva.

Is­in­bayeva has be­come a de facto spokesper­son for Rus­sian ath­letes ex­cluded from the Olympics and gave a tear­ful ad­dress to the team in the Krem­lin on Wednes­day.

“To­day, as never be­fore, we need to stay united and be­come a fam­ily,” the 40-year-old Te­tyukhin said, ig­nor­ing what he called “provo­ca­tions ad­dressed at our team and our mighty coun­try.”

No track and field ath­letes were among the con­tin­gent head­ing for Rio, since the en­tire track team is banned from com­pet­ing, ex­cept for a sin­gle U.S.-based long jumper, fol­low­ing rev­e­la­tions of wide­spread dop­ing.

The track team did, how­ever, at­tend the cer­e­mo­nial farewell with

Putin on Wednes­day, when the Rus­sian pres­i­dent branded re­stric­tions on Rus­sia as “pure dis­crim­i­na­tion.”

While Rus­sia avoided a blan­ket ban from the Games at a meet­ing of the In­ter­na­tional Olympic Com­mit­tee board on Sun­day, the IOC im­posed new re­stric­tions on Rus­sia. In­ter­na­tional sports fed­er­a­tions must now re­move any ath­lete pre­vi­ously banned for dop­ing or who was im­pli­cated in last week’s McLaren re­port al­leg­ing a mass cover up of failed drug tests.

Some fed­er­a­tions have taken a tough line, with ex­clu­sions of much of Rus­sia’s team from events such as row­ing, ca­noe­ing and swim­ming. Other sports, such as judo and ten­nis, have al­lowed the en­tire Rus­sian team to com­pete in their sport. These rul­ings must still be rat­i­fied by the Court of Ar­bi­tra­tion for Sport.

Rus­sia’s weightlift­ing team has been dogged by dop­ing cases and faced fur­ther em­bar­rass­ment Wednes­day when retests of sam­ples from the 2012 Olympics saw four Rus­sians, in­clud­ing three medal­lists, test pos­i­tive.

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