Banned Russian Olympic athletes will compete against each other at home

By Siobhán O'Grady

At least 105 Russian athletes will miss the Rio Olympics. Photo / AP
At least 105 Russian athletes will miss the Rio Olympics. Photo / AP

How does that old mantra go? If your country's entire track-and-field team gets banned from the Olympics due to evidence of systematic, state-run doping programs, create your own alternate competition instead?

That's what Yuri Borzakovsky, the head coach of the banned Russian team, has planned for his athletes. He announced Wednesday that around 135 Russians will participate in their own domestic "Stars 2016" tournament on Thursday, just over a week before the Aug. 5 opening ceremony of the Rio Olympics that the country's track and field team is not allowed to attend.

The domestic tournament will be held at Moscow's Znamensky Brothers stadium on Thursday.

"They include Olympic champions and medal holders as well as less renowned athletes forbidden to compete in Rio," Borzakovsky told Russian news agency, TASS.

A blanket ban has been implemented for the 68-person team, although Darya Kilshina - a long jumper who spent the last three years training in the United States - has been approved to compete internationally under a neutral flag.

Thus far, 108 Russians - including the track and field team - have been barred from competition this year. The ban came after a series of inquiries into whistleblowing reports that Russian officials had launched a state-run doping program that did not only provide performance enhancing drugs to athletes but also helped cover up their positive tests in urine samples.

On Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin told athletes gathered at the Kremlin that the ban amounted to "discrimination" and that gold medals won at the Olympics this year would not be worth as much if they were not won against Russian competitors.

He also said there was a "deliberate campaign" launched to target Russian athletes, which was "characterized by so-called double standards and opted for the idea of collective responsibility, which is not compatible with sport, justice in general, or the basic norms of law."

- Washington Post

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