MOSCOW (Reuters) – President Vladimir Putin will give a personal send-off on Wednesday to a diminished Russian Olympic team who travel to the Rio Games even as global sports bodies mull over the eligibility of Russian competitors.
The International Olympic Committee threw Russia a lifeline on Sunday, ignoring calls for the national team to be banned over allegations of state-backed doping and giving international sports federations the final say on whether individual Russian athletes could compete in Brazil.
Putin, who has warned of a split in the Olympic movement and what Russian officials call creeping political interference in sport, will address the Russian team on Wednesday after an earlier scheduled meeting was postponed due to the doping scandal, Russian news agencies cited the Kremlin as saying.
How many of the 387-strong Russian team originally billed will actually compete at the Rio Games remains to be seen.
Russia’s track-and-field athletes are already barred over doping offences and seven Russian swimmers, including four-times breaststroke world champion Yulia Efimova, were ruled out of the Games in August on Monday.
In a further blow to Russia’s medal hopes, two modern pentathletes and five Russian canoe sprinters – including the 2012 Olympic champion Alexander Dyachenko – were excluded by their sports’ governing bodies on Tuesday.
The International Judo Federation (IJF), however, told Reuters the 11 Russian competitors who qualified for the Rio Games will be allowed to compete, a move likely to please Putin who is a judo blackbelt and IJF honorary president.
The Russian judo squad will be joined by 18 Russian shooters who were cleared to compete by the International Shooting Federation and Russia’s equestrian team.
(Reporting by Anton Zverev, Dmitry Solovyov, Vladimir Soldatkin, Alexander Winning, Christian Lowe, Martyn Herman, Ossian Shine; Writing by Jack Stubbs; Editing by Richard Balmforth)