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Russia’s Efimova first to appeal Rio Olympics ban

Russian swimmer Yulia Efimova became the first athlete to announce she would appeal against her ban from next month’s Rio Games over doping.

Thirteen individual Russian athletes have so far been excluded from the Rio Games — seven swimmers, two weightlifters, a wrestler and three rowers –- after the International Olympic Committee declined to issue a blanket ban.

In one of the most momentous moves in its long, chequered history, the IOC left it to each international sports federation to decide if Russians could take part after they were accused of state-sponsored doping.

The decision, which came after the World Anti-Doping Agency uncovered evidence of a widespread, government-backed drugs cheating system in Russia, divided world sport and drew accusations Olympic chiefs were “spineless”.

Doping: Russian athletes banned from Olympics © AFP / Thomas SAINT-CRICQ

Swimming governing body FINA banned seven Russian swimmers on Monday, making it the first international federation to impose sanctions in light of Sunday’s IOC decision.

Vladimir Morozov and Nikita Lobintsev, both 4x100m freestyle bronze-medal winners with the Russian team at the 2012 Olympics, and Efimova, another 2012 Olympic bronze medallist, were among the seven banned.

Efimova, 24, a four-time world breaststroke champion, whose provisional ban for testing positive for meldonium was overturned by FINA in May, will appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), her agent Andrei Mitkov told R-Sport news agency.

Other international federations now face a race against the clock with the opening ceremony only 11 days away, global sport sharply divided and some Russian competitors already in Brazil.

– ‘Spineless’ –

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Russia’s pole vault star Yelena Isinbayeva had vowed to end her career if all Russians were banned from competing in Rio © AFP/File / Fabrice Coffrini

Russia has been rocked by doping scandals that saw its track and field team banned from competition, including Rio, and sparked calls led by WADA for all Russians to be barred until they cleaned up.

Olympic chiefs had been under pressure to hit Russia with the hardest sanctions possible to punish state-run doping that was laid bare a week ago in a report by Canadian law professor Richard McLaren.

It revealed wide-ranging Russian doping in Olympic events from 2011 and including the Sochi Games in 2014, where the secret service used a hole drilled in a wall to swap the dirty samples of doping competitors for clean ones.

Four-time Olympic rowing champion Matthew Pinsent led a cacophony of British condemnation. “IOC has passed the buck — pure and simple,” he wrote in The Times.

International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach says the body stopped short of an outright ban to protect the rights of clean Russian competitors hoping to take part at the Rio Games © AFP/File / Fabrice Coffrini

Defending Olympic long jump champion Greg Rutherford also weighed in, telling the Guardian newspaper: “(The IOC’s decision) is a spineless attempt to appear as the nice guy to both sides.”

The Australian government warned that a “suspicion of compromised integrity” now hung over the Games and New Zealand’s anti-doping body lamented “a black day for clean athletes”.

Canada’s anti-doping chief Paul Melia called the decision disheartening and US anti-doping chiefs blasted the IOC for creating “a confusing mess,” although the country’s Olympic committee issued a more measured response.

“The concept of individual justice must be applied for the benefit of the athletes who compete against state-sponsored doping systems,” it said.

– ‘Worst is behind us’ –

Russia, however, greeted the decision as “positive,” with Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov telling reporters: “We welcome the main decision, which allows so-called clean athletes to take part in the Olympic Games.”

Russia’s Olympic tennis team, including Svetlana Kuznetsova, meet the eligibility requirements © AFP/File / Leon Neal

Dmitry Svishchev, who heads the lower house of Russian parliament’s sports and physical culture committee, told AFP the IOC decision was “not bad”.

But he railed against the fact that Russian athletes who served doping bans in the past would be barred from Rio under the new IOC criteria, especially when drug cheats from other countries who had served their suspensions were allowed to go.

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“You can’t punish twice for the same thing,” Svishchev said.

Russia’s gymnastics team — the first group of Russian athletes to arrive in Rio — are already training, coach Valentina Rodionenko told R-Sport, saying “the worst is behind us”.

Most Russian competitors will fly out on Thursday, although it remains to be seen how many will actually take part in the Games.

The focus will now be on the Olympic sports to let in Russians who they believe are drug-free.

Zhukov said that weightlifters Anastasia Romanova and Tatiana Kashirina — who won silver at the 2012 Games — and freestyle wrestler Viktor Lebedev would not compete in Rio in light of the IOC’s criteria, R-Sport reported.

The World Archery Federation quickly declared that three Russians who had never tested positive for banned substances would be allowed to compete in Rio.

Russia’s fencing and pentathlon federations have expressed confidence that athletes in their respective sports will also take part, but were still awaiting official confirmation from the respective federations.

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