Russian Athletes Banned From Rio Olympics

Jun 18, 2016
Originally published on June 18, 2016 7:40 am
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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

A lot of Russians are angry over a landmark decision that effectively bans their track and field team from competing in this summer's Rio Olympics. Yesterday's announcement by international track officials said that Russia has failed to clean up a scandal over systematic doping. NPR's Corey Flintoff reports from Moscow.

COREY FLINTOFF, BYLINE: Russian President Vladimir Putin called the decision unfair, a form of collective punishment that penalizes clean athletes for the misdeeds of a few cheaters. One of Russia's most prominent athletes, pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva, said she'd take the issue to a human rights court. Isinbayeva, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, told Russia's RT network that her country is being unfairly singled out.

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YELENA ISINBAYEVA: (Speaking Russian).

FLINTOFF: "I don't understand why everyone is looking only at Russia," Isinbayeva said. "Doping is a global issue. They need to look in other directions, too." But officials from the International Association of Athletic Federations say the problem is not just with individuals who broke the rules. Rune Andersen is the head of the task force that was set up last November to monitor Russia's efforts to clean up its act. He says the problem is with the government system that tolerates and may even encourage sports doping.

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RUNE ANDERSEN: Because the system in Russia has been tainted by doping from top-level and down, we cannot trust that what we call clean athletes really are clean.

FLINTOFF: Andersen said top figures in Russia's track program still refuse to acknowledge that there's a problem. He said many Russian athletes have been dodging drug tests by outside monitors. President Putin expressed the hope that the International Olympic Committee will overturn the ban on Russian athletes. The IOC is set to discuss the issue on Tuesday, but some prominent committee members say it's unlikely the decision will be reversed. Corey Flintoff, NPR News, Moscow. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.