Russian President Vladimir Putin has condemned as unfair a decision by the IAAF to uphold a ban on competition for Russian track and field athletes that bars them from the Rio Olympics.
Speaking to foreign media at a late evening roundtable on Friday Putin said the IAAF – track’s world governing body – meted out “collective” punishment that has hurt clean athletes.
While Russia threatens legal action, the rest of the world has welcomed the move and urged the IOC not to go against it.
“We are extremely disappointed by the IAAF’s decision, creating the unprecedented situation of a whole nation’s track and field athletes being banned from the Olympics,” the Russian ministry of sport said.
“Clean athletes’ dreams are being destroyed because of the reprehensible behaviour of other athletes and officials.
“We now appeal to the members of the International Olympic Committee to not only consider the impact that our athletes’ exclusion will have on their dreams and the people of Russia, but also that the Olympics themselves will be diminished by their absence.”
The IAAF voted unanimously to uphold its ban on Russia for systematic doping, saying the country had not made enough progress on reforms to dispel concerns of state-sponsored abuse.
The Russian athletics federation blamed the media: “The pressure which we experienced in the last few days ahead of the council meeting … doubtlessly influenced the decision.”
Yelena Isinbayeva, who had hoped to seek a third Olympic pole vault gold in Rio and who is one of Russia’s most prominent athletes, described it as a violation of human rights.
“I will not be quiet, I will take steps. I will go to the human rights court. I will prove to the IAAF and WADA that they made the wrong decision,” she said, referring to the World Anti-Doping Agency.
A Kremlin spokesman, speaking hours before the ban was extended, said: “Everything possible needed to defend the rights of our athletes and the Olympic team is being done and will be done at a legal level.”
The IOC merely “took note” of the decision but said it would discuss the situation in a telephone conference on Saturday.
The United States Olympic Committee described it as a step in the right direction.
Stephanie Hightower, president of US Track and Field and an IAAF Council member, said it was “the only proper course of action given the compelling and powerful evidence presented to Council”.
There was some sympathy elsewhere too for innocent Russian athletes, with American Olympic decathlon silver medallist Trey Hardee saying: “Sad day for Russian athletes. The people in charge should be punished, they created the culture of dope”.
A statement from European Athletics President Svein Arne Hansen said it would be “unfair to allow the impression that doping is a problem confined to Russia or to athletics.
Individual athletes, however, were quick to take to social media to give their support for the ban.
The IAAF decision followed a warning by Australia’s newly crowned Olympic champion Jared Tallent that the Rio Games would be tarnished if Russian athletes were allowed to compete.
Tallent has finally been presented with the Olympic gold medal from the London Games, where he crossed the line in the men’s 50km walk behind Russian drug cheat Sergey Kirdyapkin.
“I hope they (the IAAF) make the right decision,” he said on Friday (AEST).
“I believe if the Russian track and field team is there, it will hurt the credibility of the Games.
“I would be very, very angry and more athletes would be robbed of medals again.”
Australian Olympic boss John Coates echoed his comments, saying he believed Russia’s athletes would remain banned and slamming its anti-doping agency and athletics body as having been “rotten to the core”.