Sunday 11 December 2016

Rowing and swimming become the first sports to ban Russian athletes from Rio Games

Matt Slater

Published 26/07/2016 | 07:26

An aerial view of the Christ the Redeemer statue standing above the Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas where the rowing and canoeing competitions will be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, less than two weeks before the start of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, July 23, 2016. REUTERS/Pawel Kopczynski TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
An aerial view of the Christ the Redeemer statue standing above the Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas where the rowing and canoeing competitions will be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, less than two weeks before the start of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, July 23, 2016. REUTERS/Pawel Kopczynski TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

Rowing and swimming became the first sports to ban Russian athletes after the International Olympic Committee's controversial decision to let the sports decide on Russia's involvement at the Rio Games.

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Swimming's world governing body FINA banned three Russian swimmers, with four more being withdrawn from the team by the Russian Olympic Committee.

Nikita Lobintsev, Vladimir Morozov and Daria Ustinova were rejected because their names appeared in Richard McLaren's damning report into state-directed doping in Russia.

And the Russian authorities withdrew Mikhail Dovgalyuk, Yulia Efimova, Natalia Lovtcova and open-water swimmer Anastasia Krapivina from consideration as all have served doping bans before.

Later on Monday, rowing's international federation FISA announced Ivan Balandin from the men's eight had been named by McLaren for having a positive test recorded as negative by the Moscow anti-doping laboratory and is now ineligible.

It also said Anastasiia Karabelshchikova and Ivan Podshivalov cannot compete as they have both served doping bans in the past.

FISA added it would be retesting samples from the remaining members of the team.

Of these 10 rejected Russians, four-time world breaststroke champion Efimova will be the biggest blow in terms of medal prospects but that will not be as devastating as the confirmation of the three swimmers McLaren uncovered in his investigation.

Lobintsev and Morozov were part of Russia's bronze-medal winning 4x100m freestyle team at London 2012, while Lobintsev also won a silver medal in the 4x200m freestyle relay at Beijing 2008.

But the confirmation of Ustinova's involvement in the conspiracy to cover up positive tests between 2012-15 is deeply depressing as she is 17 and looked like being Russia's next big swimming star.

A three-time world junior champion and nine-time European junior champion, Ustinova could now be thrown out of the sport as she had been warned for failing a test for a steroid when only 14.

FINA's response to the growing doping crisis in the sport has often been criticised but it appears to have raised its game now.

In a statement issued on its website, the governing body for all Olympic aquatic sport said the McLaren report proved anti-doping rules "were not implemented correctly in Russia".

"The exact implication for the Russian Swimming Federation is still to be clarified," the statement continued.

"For this purpose, the matter has been forwarded to an ad hoc commission, which will have to investigate."

Rowing's governing body also sounded an ominous note for Russian sport when it said it was its "duty" to find out if the Russian rowing federation was involved or aware of the cover-ups.

But rowing and swimming are not the only sports vetting Russia's Rio entry list.

An announcement from the International Canoeing Federation is understood to be imminent, with as many as five from that sport believed to be implicated by McLaren.

The International Handball Federation has written to the Russian federation to ask for the whereabouts of the women's team to enable immediate testing, while, boxing, gymnastics and modern pentathlon have told Press Association Sport they are assessing matters.

Archery and equestrian, however, have joined tennis in confirming the eligibility of the Russian entries, while the Russian media is reporting their seven-strong sailing team is already in Rio and will be allowed to compete.

And FINA's statement concluded by saying it had no reason to stop Russia's divers, synchronised swimmers and women's water polo team from taking part in the Games.

There has been no official comment from judo, triathlon volleyball or wrestling since the IOC decided against a blanket ban for Russia, but all four issued statements in support of clean Russian athletes in the build-up to the IOC announcement.

With only one Russian currently eligible for the track and field competition and the weightlifting team on the brink of being banned, Russia's hopes of fielding anywhere near the 387 athletes they announced last week are fading fast.

But they could still be joined in Brazil by a team-mate many in Russian sport consider to be a traitor: middle-distance runner and doping whistleblower Yuliya Stepanova.

The 30-year-old, forced to flee Russia in 2014 for speaking out about the country's cheating, has asked the IOC to reconsider its shock decision to bar her from running in Rio.

That ruling has been strongly criticised by anti-doping experts and journalists who consider Stepanova and her husband Vitaly Stepanov to be two of a very small group of people to emerge from this saga with any credit.

The US-based Stepanova has written a letter to the IOC, rebutting the reasons its ethics commission gave for banning her, a decision that ran counter to the advice of athletics' world governing body and WADA.

Press Association

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