Putin: Olympic ban on Russian athletes is political scheme

Russian President Vladimir Putin blames a political plot for the decision to ban Russian athletes from the Rio Olympic Games.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a personal send-off for members of the Russian Olympic team at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, July 27, 2016.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has claimed a political plot was to blame for banning Russian athletes from competing at the Olympic Games in Rio.

He vowed to defend Russia’s damaged sporting reputation subsequent to the doping allegations, he went on to label the decision by global sporting organisations to ban a selection of Russian athletes as nonsensical and illegal, while addressing members of Russia's Olympic team in the Kremlin on Wednesday.

"The deliberate campaign targeting our athletes was characterised by so-called double standards and opted for the idea of collective responsibility, which is not compatible with sport, justice, or the basic norms of law," said Putin.

"It is an attempt to apply the rules which unfortunately dominate in geopolitics to the sporting world," he said, lashing out at what he called "short-sighted political schemers."

The ban was issued while the country is amidst an economic crisis and has parliamentary elections on the horizon.

The doping scandal, which centres on allegations that the Russian government and the FSB security service covered up doping for years, has had major repercussions in the Russian sports world.

After previously suggesting the scheme to target Russian athletes originated in the West his strategy of blaming a conpiracy evokes voters’ patriotism and will likely work to his favour in the sphere of public opinion.

Putin, a loyal practitioner of ice hockey and judo, issued his comments to more than 100 athletes, some of whom have been banned from the Rio Olympic Games next month as a result of the doping allegations by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) and other federations.

He spoke after the IAAF said there were "no grounds for further review" of its original decision.

His address was punctuated with displays of emotion; Putin bemoaned the fact that those prevented from going had not been provided with specific or proven doping accusations.

"It is obvious that the absence of Russian sportspeople -- leaders in many sporting disciplines -- will significantly affect the intensity of the competition and diminish the spectator value of the forthcoming events," said Putin.

Any medal won in Rio in the absence of Russian athletes would be worth much less than usual, he added, predicting many victories would be shallow.

Pledging rigorous action against any athletes guilty of doping as well as the implementation of a system to prevent the practice, Putin said someone was trying to rewrite the Olympics' founding principles of equality, fairness and mutual respect.

Track-and-field athlete Yelena Isinbayeva reacts as she walks past Russian President Vladimir Putin during his personal send-off for members of the Russian Olympic team at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, July 27, 2016.

One of the banned athletes, two-time Olympic champion pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva, who spoke after Putin, lamented that her Olympic dreams had been shattered.

Putin said Russians were capable of transcending adversity.

"There is an important and wonderful quality about the Russian character," said Putin. "Difficulties only unite us and make us stronger."

TRTWorld and agencies