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‘Handful’ of Russians denied place at Olympics over doping suspicions

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By Euronews with AP
Stanislav Pozdnyakov, president of the Russian Olympic Committee, answers questions as he arrives at the Olympic Games in Tokyo
Stanislav Pozdnyakov, president of the Russian Olympic Committee, answers questions as he arrives at the Olympic Games in Tokyo   -   Copyright  Hiro Komae/AP
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A ‘handful’ of Russian athletes have been denied a place at the Olympics after they were suspected of doping.

The head of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) said on Friday the agency had intervened to stop several Russians from competing based on evidence from a Moscow testing lab, which was shut down in 2015.

The lab was implicated in the Russian state-sponsored doping scandal that tainted the 2014 Sochi Winter Games and prevented many athletes from going to the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

“It was not particularly complicated,” WADA director general Olivier Niggli said. “There was not many but there was a handful, I would say, of athletes who would still potentially be at the Games which we would qualify as strong (database) cases.

“And none of them are here,” Niggli said. “They will not be competing.”

The database and samples from the long-sealed lab were finally given in 2019 to WADA, which prepared and shared about 300 potential cases for governing bodies of Olympic sports.

WADA investigators found the database was manipulated while in the hands of Russian law enforcement. Information was altered and deleted, and false emails tried to incriminate lab officials who became whistleblowers.

Ban on Russia’s national identity

The database scandal led to a ban on Russia’s national identity at the Tokyo Olympics and the 2022 Beijing Winter Games.

The 335 athletes accredited for Tokyo are officially competing for ROC, the acronym for the Russian Olympic Committee. The word “Russia” is banned from their uniforms.

Gold medalists from Russia will not hear their national anthem on the podium but instead a familiar piece of piano music composed by Tchaikovsky.

A Russian Olympic flag will be raised, not the national flag of white, blue and red horizontal stripes.

A panel of three Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) judges imposed a two-year slate of punishments in December. WADA originally requested four years.

One concession from CAS is letting the Russian uniform be in white, red and blue, the colors of the country’s national flag.

Russians were not allowed to wear their colors at the past two track world championships, and WADA wanted neutral uniforms at the Olympics.

WADA expressed disappointment with a CAS verdict at a news conference on Friday in Tokyo.

“We have made our arguments, we got a decision, it is what it is,” Niggli later told the AP.

“CAS decided that this was going too far, this was unfair to a generation of athletes who had nothing to do with what happened in the past,” Niggli said. “The vast, vast majority of the delegation that is here from Russia is made up of athletes who were not competing back in 2012, 2013, 2014.”