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Russian stars lash out at Rio ban

The Associated Press

Russia’s Yelena Isinbayeva competes in a women’s pole vault qualification round at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.

The Associated PressZHUKOVSKY, Russia (AP) — Russia’s top athletes reacted with anger after the news broke Thursday that their track-and-field team would remain banned from next month’s Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

Two-time Olympic champion pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva, the team’s biggest star, wrote on Instagram that without Russia, historically a track superpower, only “pseudo-gold medals” would be on offer at a devalued Rio Olympics.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport’s decision — to reject an appeal against an earlier ban — marked the “funeral” for track and field, Isinbayeva told state news agency Tass.

At a competition near Moscow that had been scheduled as a final tune-up before the games, most athletes saw the ruling as fundamentally unjust, and based on unfair allegations of mass doping and government cover-ups.

“It’s a big blow for me personally and for the athletes,” said world high jump champion Maria Kuchina, who would have been a strong contender for gold at her first Olympics.

Three hours after news came through that Russia’s appeal against the ban by the International Association of Athletics Federations had been rejected, Kuchina leapt 2 meters in front of the sparse crowd. The jump would have been good enough to have won the gold medal at the European championships earlier this month — if she and the rest of the Russian team had not been suspended.

“Despite all the difficulties and problems, we kept training,” she said. “Today I showed that I’d be in contention for the Olympic podium, regardless of the news today.”

A string of reports from the World Anti-Doping Agency and an IAAF taskforce that focused on widespread doping in Russian track and field, along with alleged cover-ups involving high-ranking government officials, have done little to convince Russian athletes that their team deserves punishment.

“A lot of the facts aren’t confirmed, it’s complete slander and they’re still putting pressure on us,” said Vera Rudakova, one of the world’s top young hurdlers.

Bans for individual dopers are fair, but not the exclusion of a whole team, hurdler Timofey Chaly argued.

“It’s dishonest,” he said. “There are people who decided for themselves that they can dope and maybe somehow they’d get away with it. That didn’t happen and they got bans, that’s fair.”

Russia’s ban contained a bitter irony for former European javelin champion Vera Rebrik, who switched allegiance from Ukraine to Russia in 2014 after her home region of Crimea was annexed by Russia. She will now miss the Olympics because of her new nation’s ban.

“I don’t know whether to laugh or cry,” she said.

Gasol to skip Rio Games

MADRID (AP) — The Spanish basketball federation says that center Marc Gasol will miss the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro after failing to recover from a broken foot in time.

The federation says “Marc Gasol hasn’t passed the necessary medical tests” and will miss the games.

Gasol has not played since he broke his right foot in February while playing for the Memphis Grizzlies.

Spain won silver medals in men’s basketball at the last two Olympic Games, losing the finals to the United States.

The 2016 basketball event starts in less than three weeks.Speech

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