Russia to challenge Rio Olympics ban in civil court – sports minister

Russia will go to a civil court after the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Lausanne ruled to bar the country’s track and field athletes from the Rio Olympics, Vitaly Mutko, Russia’s sports minister, said.

The decision by CAS to uphold a ban imposed by the IAAF (the International Association of Athletics Federations) “violates the rights of 'clean,' conscientious athletes, thus creating a precedent,” Mutko said.

“I believe we'll continue defending our honor and dignity, meaning the time has come to apply to a civil court," he added.

Earlier on Thursday, the Lausanne court rejected a lawsuit filed by the Russian Olympic Committee and 68 Russian athletes against an IAAF ruling to bar them from all international competitions, including Rio 2016, over a wide-scale doping scandal.

However, Russia still has the right to file an appeal to the Federal Court of Switzerland within the next 30 days.

"We recognize and respect the decision by the Court of Arbitration for Sport. This is a judicial body but the IAAF's behavior and persistence cause indignation," the minister said.

He said that "corruption has been exposed in it [the IAAF] and criminal proceedings are under way against its former president [Lamine Diack] and he is under home arrest in France.”

“We have also read about how Sebastian Coe [the current IAAF head] got the seat of the organization's president. Our athletes and we intend to apply to the ethics committee [of the IAAF]," Mutko added.

Thursday’s ruling by CAS was “undoubtedly affected” by the latest report from the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Independent Commission, chaired by Canadian law professor Richard McLaren, he stressed.

In the paper, the commission claimed to have discovered evidence that Russia's Sports Ministry and the Federal Security Service (FSB) covered up wide-scale doping which assured Russia success at the Winter Olympics in Sochi 2014.

The minister blasted the McLaren team’s report for “non-professional data” and containing untrustworthy information.

"The Russian team is currently in the focus of the world's attention," Mutko said. "It is not up to me to evaluate all these '[doping] cocktails.' But it is not true when somebody alleges that an athlete can consume such a 'cocktail' and go and win a medal after two weeks. Such information targets amateurs," he said.

"One should not be aiming at suspending and punishing the whole country but must aim at setting up a system, which can be trusted by everyone," Mutko added.

But the Russian sports minister stressed he would leave his position "the next day" if it were to be proven that he was part of any doping cover-up program.

Earlier in July, the IAAF turned down personal applications to be allowed to compete internationally from all Russian athletes, except long jumper Darya Klishina, who has been training in the US for the last couple of years.

The world's athletics governing body said that Russians may still be allowed to compete at the Rio Games, which run between August 5 and 21, but only under a neutral flag, and not as part of their country’s team.

Two-time pole vault Olympic champion and world record holder, Russia’s Yelena Isinbayeva, has called the CAS ruling “a funeral of track and field athletics.”

The decision to uphold the ban on Russian athletes was “a purely political order,” the sports star said. 

Her fellow teammates in the Russian squad were also shocked and devastated by the decision made in Lausanne.

“My first reaction was it just can’t be true. The world has gone insane. Why should I sacrifice everything I have?” high jumper Maria Kuchina told RT.

Vera Rudakova, who competes in 400 meters hurdles, called the ruling “completely unfair towards us – clean athletes.”

"Now that the entire track and field team is banned we’ll be supporting the other Russian athletes at the Olympics, hoping they’ll show everyone that sport in our country is great,” she said.

Another runner, Timofey Chalyy, also stressed that it was unfair for him to be “suffering for the mistakes of others I don’t even know.”

“Since the start of the year, nine doping probes were taken from me. And somehow they still question how athletes aren’t clean. It looks as if they don’t trust themselves,” Denis Kudryavtsev, who runs the 400 meters hurdles, said.

Four-time Olympic champion in gymnastics, Aleksey Nemov, said that a ban on the Russian track and field team goes against the Olympics' very principles.

“The Olympic Games were created in order to put hostilities around the globe on hold; in order for sports to unite people… so I think that today’s decision has nothing to do with fair play,” he said.

“The Olympic Games without Russia will never be valid … there should not be politics in sports,” Nemov added.

Anti-corruption and sports attorney David Larkin has slammed the IAAF and WADA for being unable to protect the Russian athletes who have never doped.

“Clearly, the system in Russia has questions to answer but we also have to protect clean athletes, we have to balance the interests. And, right now, the IAAF and WADA have really failed on the job in my opinion,” Larkin told RT.

“Clean Russian athletes had nowhere to go and no guidance until last month when it was too late to comply. That is the real concern here,” he said.

He added that the system of justice in sports has “its own problems and it is very unpredictable, a kind of uncharted territory.”

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