Absence of Russian stars hurt Rio Games: Putin

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Moscow—President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday the absence of top Russian competitors will “markedly lower” next month’s Rio Games, as he met competitors set for Brazil and those barred over state-run doping.
Over 100 Russians have so far been banned from the Games, including track and field stars Yelena Isinbayeva and Sergey Shubenkov, who were among those meeting Putin at the Kremlin.
Two-time gold medallist pole vaulter Isinbayeva was seen breaking down in tears.
“It’s obvious that the absence of Russian competitors—leaders in many disciplines—markedly lowers, and will lower the intensity of the fight and that means the spectacle at the upcoming events,” Putin said in a speech.
“The other sportsmen understand that the quality of their medals will be different.”
Putin blasted a decision to exclude the Russian track and field team and some other athletes as political and said it goes both “beyond the legal sphere and common sense”.
A tearful Isinbayeva lashed out at the suspension by athletics governing body, the IAAF, and thanked Putin for his support.
“They banned us without evidence, crudely and rudely,” she said, before the team headed to a religious ceremony to be blessed by the influential head of the Russian Orthodox Church.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) sparked fierce criticism on Sunday when it resisted a blanket ban in favour of allowing individual sports federations to make the call on which Russians can go to Rio.
International sports federations are now scrambling to vet Russian athletes as time ticks down to the start of the Games on August 5.
Russian competitors are set to jet out to Brazil early Thursday but it still remains unclear how many of the 387-strong squad named last week will eventually compete.
Rowing’s international governing body FISA was the latest to get tough with Russia, announcing that 22 of 28 Russian competitors had been banned under strict criteria imposed by the IOC. That took the number of Russian competitors banned since Sunday to 41, in addition to 67 members of the track and field team excluded by the IAAF.
The IAAF on Wednesday reaffirmed that only one Russian athlete—US-based long jumper Darya Klishina—was eligible to compete because she lives and trains outside the Russian system.—AFP

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