Russian Track And Field Athletes Banned From Rio Olympics

Jun 17, 2016
Originally published on June 18, 2016 7:46 am
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

One of the world's most powerful track and field teams has effectively been banned from competing in the Rio Olympics. The body that governs international track and field events said today that Russia has failed to meet the conditions that would allow it to overcome a growing scandal over sports doping. NPR's Corey Flintoff reports from Moscow.

COREY FLINTOFF, BYLINE: The unanimous decision was announced in Vienna by Sebastian Coe, the head of the International Association of Athletic Federations, the IAAF. Coe said the group found that...

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SEBASTIAN COE: Russian athletes could not credibly return to international competition without undermining the confidence of their competitors and the public.

FLINTOFF: Rune Andersen, the head of a task force set up to monitor Russia's progress, said that country's athletic federation, RUSAF, had not done enough to clean up its doping problems.

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RUNE ANDERSEN: In particular, the deep-seated culture of tolerance, or worse, for doping that got RUSAF suspended in the first place appears not to have been changed materially to date.

FLINTOFF: Andersen said the head coach of Russia's track and field team and many of his athletes appear to be unwilling to acknowledge that there was a serious problem. One prominent Russian athlete pole vaulter, Yevgenia Isinbaeva, responded angrily, saying she'd take her case to the European Court of Human Rights. Isinbaeva's been a strong advocate for the argument that drug-free Russian athletes shouldn't be punished for the actions of a few cheaters.

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YEVGENIA ISINBAEVA: (Speaking Russian).

FLINTOFF: Speaking on a recent Russian talk show, the Olympic gold-medal winner said, why should I abandon my right that I earned throughout my entire professional career? If there are no complaints against me, why should I sit at home and not perform? Russian President Vladimir Putin's been making the same case.

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VLADIMIR PUTIN: (Speaking Russian).

FLINTOFF: At a news conference today, Putin said there's a concept in law that responsibility can only be individual, so a whole team can't be held responsible for the violations of a few. But the international track and field officials maintain that the doping problem in Russia goes far beyond some individual misdeeds. They referred to an ongoing investigation into allegations of state-sponsored doping - allegations that first surfaced in The New York Times. The head of the task force, Rune Andersen, pointed to information that Russia's sports ministry told the Russian anti-doping laboratory not to report positive drug tests.

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ANDERSEN: And this was a collaboration between the ministry and the laboratory.

FLINTOFF: If this proves true, it would point to a high-level conspiracy in the Russian government to promote doping by athletes and cover up the results. Today's decision may not be the final word on Russia's participation in the Rio Olympics. The International Olympic Committee is scheduled to meet next Tuesday to consider the situation. Some IOC members have indicated that they have sympathy for the Russian argument that clean athletes should be allowed to compete. Corey Flintoff, NPR News, Moscow. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.