Photographer: Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images

Russia’s Ambassador to Brazil Says Politics Behind Rio Exclusion

  • Only Russians who passed international tests will compete
  • Athletes who’ve been charged with doping in the past won’t go

Politics. That’s what Russia’s ambassador to Brazil is blaming for the biggest crisis in recent Olympic history.

The fate of the country’s athletes dominated the meeting of the International Olympic Committee in Rio de Janeiro as the city prepares to open the games Friday. Russia’s track and field team has already been excluded from the Olympics, and other sports bodies are making decisions on which athletes from Russia to allow into the mega event after the stunning allegations the country engaged in state-sponsored doping.

Claims that the Russian government and its security agencies helped hide scores of positive doping tests across a wide range of sport since the build up to the last summer games in London four years ago have roiled global sports in the run-up to the Summer Games.

"We are sure that politics is behind it, especially because we see that the attitude of some forces toward sportsmen of different countries is not the same," Ambassador Sergey Akopov said in an interview in Rio. "There is some kind of discrimination and this discrimination can only be explained by a political situation."

‘Nobody Explains’

U.S. sprinter Justin Gatlin is the U.S.’s best hope for a medal in one of the Olympics’s showcase events, the 100-meter dash. Gatlin is taking part in the games even though he’s served two doping bans in the past. The IOC ruled that only Russian athletes with clean drug records could compete, if they were cleared by the relevant sports body concerned.

"Sportsmen who were seen using doping before from other countries are being accredited to the games, and Russians in same situation are not," said Akopov. "Why? who can explain? Nobody explains. Even the International Olympic Committee can’t explain it."

Akopov’s remarks echo those expressed by President Vladimir Putin, who has tried to frame the doping scandal in the context of the country’s tensions with the West. The IOC has so far steered clear of completely banning Russia from the games, even though it has been under pressure to do some from anti doping bodies and athletes from across the world.

"This blanket ban of the Russian Olympic Committee has been called by some the ‘nuclear option’ and the innocent athletes would have to be considered as collateral damage,” IOC President Thomas Bach said Tuesday. "The cynical ‘collateral damage approach’ is not what the Olympic movement stands for."

Akopov said there had been cases of Russians who doped, but they were not given assistance by the state. He said those allegations were based on the testimony of the former head of its national doping laboratory, Grigory Rodchenkov. He’s since fled to the U.S., while a criminal case has been opened against him in Russia.

"The only foundation for this is the declaration of one man whose situation is not very clear," Akopov said.

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