The scene was idyllic at the Russian track and field championships in this leafy Moscow suburb on Thursday as young hopefuls and world champions competed in the sun.
But with only a few hundred people in attendance, it was a poor replacement for the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games from which the court of arbitration for sport had definitively barred the Russian track and field team a few hours before. Normally at this time of year, many top athletes would already be abroad at international events or training for the Olympics.
The world high jump champion Mariya Kuchina was one of 68 athletes who appealed to be admitted to Rio after the Russian track and field team were suspended from international competition over findings of widespread drug use. She heard of the ruling against them just before the high jump event at Zhukovsky, which she won with a height of 2m. It would have taken first place at the European Championships earlier this month.
Kuchina said she had reacted to the Cas ruling with “disappointment, indignation, sadness, incomprehension of what’s happening”.
“The decision is unfair because every athlete who dreams of the Olympics and who doesn’t dope should be able to compete,” she said.
The long jumper Darya Klishina and the whistleblower Yulia Stepanova, who train in the United States, will likely be the only Russian track and field athletes at the Games.
Officials and athletes continued to reject world anti-doping agency reports, the latest of which found the Russian state had directed and covered up drug use. The Olympic champion pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva, for whom this would have been a fifth and final Games, told the state news agency TASS the decision was a “political hit job” that marked the “funeral of track and field”. The sports minister, Vitaly Mutko, said the decision was “politicised” and Russia would have to “think over our next actions”.
The Russian athletics federation secretary, Mikhail Butov, called the ruling a “wrong decision against clean athletes” and said Russia would appeal, although not in time for the Olympics.
“This decision was made under pressure, the facts were distorted,” said Timofei Chaly, who won the 400m hurdles. He said he had never doped after his father, also a competitive hurdler, had told him before his first track meet “don’t think of drinking anything” with performance-enhancing drugs in it. His dream of going to the Olympics “was in my hands and they took it away”, Chaly said, vowing to train for the 2020 Games.
The suspension will also be a blow to athletes’ potential prize money. Gleb Sidorchenko, who placed third in the discus on Thursday, said athletes were worried their state salaries could be cut. “There are material consequences, and it’s bad for the development of the sport,” he said. “A whole generation could disappear.”
Anti-doping agencies in several countries have called for Russian athletes in all sports to be banned from Rio, an issue the International Olympic Committee is expected to decide on Sunday. The high jumper Andrei Silnov, for whom Rio would likely have been his final Olympics, said he viewed this next decision “with sarcasm” given the previous rulings against Russia.
“Of course, I’m worried, it’s my country, and I’m a patriot of my country,” he said. “It won’t be the same Olympics without Russia.”
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010