‘Unsporting, politically motivated’: Boxing champ Valuev slams IAAF ban on Russian athletes

The IAAF decision to uphоld the ban on Russian track and field team ahead of the Rio Olympics has “absolutely no relation to sport” and is “totally politically motivated,” two-time WBA heavyweight champion Nikolai Valuev, dubbed “The Beast from the East,” told RT.

Doping issue “is not a Russian problem, it is a global problem,” Valuev said, adding that to focus only on Russia over such an issue is “absolutely wrong.”

“Sport has always been outside politics,” said Valuev, who has been dubbed “the Beast from the East” for his impressive measurements.

Valuev said that if Russian sportsmen decide to compete under a neutral flag – the flag of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) – he would understand their decision.

“In this case, even if they compete under this flag [IOC flag], they will always be Russian. I understand if they make such a decision.”

On Friday, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) upheld its ban on Russia's track and field team over allegations of doping. This means the team will be excluded from this summer's Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

While the ruling appears final, the main hope of competing in Rio for Russian athletes who have not been found guilty of doping lies with the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which meets with other sports bodies next Tuesday in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Many Russian athletes who have not tested positive for a banned substance are expected to take their cases to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Athletes with proven clean records could have the chance to enter international competitions, but not under the flag of the Russian Federation.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) first made its allegations against Russia in November 2015, accusing the country’s athletics and anti-doping bodies of massively breaching anti-doping rules. The IAAF suspended Russia in November over the accusations.

The IAAF decision has cause negative reaction among Russian athletes. Russia's two-time Olympic pole vault champion Yelena Isinbayeva said that IAAF's decision is “discrimination on national grounds,” while Russian heavyweight MMA champion Vitaly Minakov described the ban as a “tragedy” for aspiring Olympic athletes who did not use doping.

President Vladimir Putin condemned the ban on Russian athletes’ participation in the Rio Olympics as “unjust.” Yet, he said he believes a “solution” can be found to the conflict, stressing that Russia will continue to fight doping.

Russia’s Sports Ministry released a statement expressing its disappointment with the IAAF’s decision. It urged the IOC to assess the consequences of banning Russia’s national team from the 2016 Olympic Games.

“The Ministry is calling upon all members of the International Olympic Committee to once again assess the consequences the precedent (ban of the national team from the Olympic Games) will have both for Russian athletes and all of Russian people as well as for other members of the Olympic movement,” the statement said.