Two Russian athletes launch appeals of Rio ban
MOSCOW (AP) Two Russian athletes said Sunday they have appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport to overturn the IAAF's ban on the Russian team competing in Olympic track and field.
The IAAF, track and field's world governing body, on Friday upheld a suspension of the Russian team imposed in November after a World Anti-Doping Agency report detailed widespread, state-sponsored doping.
Race walkers Denis Nizhegorodov and Svetlana Vasilyeva argue that a ban of the entire team is unfair punishment.
Nizhegorodov, an Olympic silver medalist in 2004, says ''competing at the Olympics is the main goal and main honor. We will get that right,'' in comments on agent Andrei Mitkov's website.
''Now they want to take away my chance to compete at the Olympics, even though I haven't done anything to cost me a place in Rio,'' Vasilyeva said. ''From bitter experience I understand that you can't wait and hope for a good result, you have to act.''
Both athletes say they reject an IAAF measure that would allow some Russian athletes to compete under a neutral status, rather than the Russian flag, if they can show they are clean and have been tested regularly by a reputable testing authority outside Russia.
''I'm a citizen of Russia, a great sports power. I don't agree with competing under the Olympic flag,'' he said.
The appeal does not have the blessing of the Russian track and field federation, which says it has yet to receive the full text of the IAAF's decision.
''No one at the federation has any connection to this,'' spokeswoman Alla Glushchenko told The Associated Press in a text message. ''We've started work with lawyers. In any case, you have to receive the official IAAF ruling and we don't have it yet.''
Russian race walking is among the events most seriously affected by doping. Russia voluntarily withdrew its walking team from last year's world championship over doping concerns.
Nizhegorodov comes from a training center that has seen over 30 doping cases, including several for Olympic champions, and where senior officials have been banned for organizing drug use. He was threatened with losing his Olympic bronze from 2008 after a retest came back positive, but was cleared when the ''B'' sample did not correspond with the original finding.
The appeal by Nizhegorodov and Vasilyeva came as IAAF President Sebastian Coe defended the decision to ban Russia, saying it should not be seen as an attempt to stop clean Russians from competing.
''We did not make a decision on clean athletes,'' Coe wrote in an article for Britain's Sunday Telegraph newspaper. ''We evaluated a system and a culture within which all athletes in Russia are competing. A tainted system that cast doubts on every athlete who is part of it.''
Coe also provided further details on an IAAF program to allow a select few Russians to compete if they have been based outside the country with testing from a rigorous foreign anti-doping agency.
''Some of them made the tough personal decision to get out and are now training in systems that are effective and safe,'' Coe wrote.
''It is these athletes we believe should be offered the opportunity to compete, not for Russia, but for themselves and for all clean athletes.''
The International Olympic Committee has convened a summit for Tuesday to discuss the issue but said in a statement Saturday that it supported the IAAF ruling.
Russian pole vault world record holder Yelena Isinbayeva said that next week's Russian national championship would be the last competition of her career if the ban is not lifted in time for the 34-year-old athlete to go to Rio.
''If IOC won't allow us to participate in the Olympic Games, it will be my final (competition) in the career,'' she wrote on Instagram. Isinbayeva is a two-time Olympic gold medalist and won bronze in 2012.