Australian athletes slam IOC decision on Russia

Melbourne, July 26 (IANS) The decision by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to not ban the entire Russian team from competing at the Rio Olympics next month has been met with mixed reactions from the Australian Olympic camp.

Sam Coffa, a Melbourne-based weightlifting coach who is the most experienced member of Australia’s Olympic team and vice-president of the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF), said the IOC had left its sports with an unworkable mess, reports Xinhua.

“They have lit a fuse and then retreated into a bunker,” Coffa told News Limited on Tuesday.

“They have failed us, they have failed sport, they have failed the movement and it has absolutely taken the gloss off the Olympic Games.”

The IOC announced on Monday that it would not apply blanket bans to all Russian athletes for August’s Rio Olympics over widespread state-sanctioned doping, instead leaving the decision with each sport’s governing body.

The decision came despite the recommendation of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) that all Russian athletes be excluded from the Games and has split the Australian Olympic camp.

John Coates, Australia’s most senior Olympic official and IOC vice-president, supported the decision of the IOC executive board despite labeling Russian officials as “rotten to the core” in June.

“We did not want to penalize the athletes who are clean with a collective ban and therefore keeping them out of the Games,” Coates said on Tuesday.

Coates’ position was endorsed by Australia’s chef de mission Kitty Chiller who said the team’s focus was now entirely on winning as many medals as possible regardless of the competition.

“All we can say to our own athletes is, in the nicest possible sense, to wipe Russia from their minds and focus on their own performance,” Chiller told News Limited.

“The decision has been made now. We need to trust the process and the criteria that have been put in place.”

Walker Jared Tallent, who has been impacted more by Russian doping than any other Australian athlete, took a contrary view to Australia’s most senior Olympic officials, labeling the IOC decision as “gutless”.

The Melbourne-based Tallent was awarded a retrospective gold medal in June for the 50 kilometer walk at the 2012 London Olympics after the winner on the day, Russia’s Sergey Kirdyapin, was stripped of the medal because of failed drug tests.

“I thought it was gutless,” Tallent said on Tuesday amidst preparations for the Rio Olympics.

“Passing the decision off on the individual sporting federations was extremely disappointing. It was a golden opportunity lost to stand up and make a stand for clean sport and the integrity of the Olympic Games.”

“The evidence is there. You cannot guarantee that any Russian athlete that competes in Rio will be clean even if they have been tested internationally. I will be watching the opening ceremony from Florida and I will be shaking my head when I see the Russian team walk into the stadium.”

The governing bodies of both swimming and rowing took action on Tuesday to ban 10 ten Russian athletes from competing in their respective sports at Rio.



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