By Steve Keating

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Count Reid Priddy, the veteran of the U.S. men's volleyball team, among those happy to see Russia back to defend their gold medal at the Rio Olympics despite a doping scandal that sparked calls for a blanket ban.

Priddy, who played professionally for five years in Russia and will be taking part in his fourth Olympics, said he was confident Russian volleyballers were clean and was looking forward to playing them in Rio.

Russia won a five-set thriller over Brazil in the final of the 2012 London Olympics to capture their first gold in 32 years.


"To have a blanket ban seems so harsh. I have lots of friends who play on the Russian national team I know who are clean," assured Priddy, who was part to the U.S. gold medal winning squad at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

"To have them not to be able to participate because of some people that are abusing the system would be tragic.

"I hope those clean Russian athletes that are here are able to put that behind them and compete to the best of their ability."

An independent report compiled by Canadian law professor Richard McLaren and released on July 18 uncovered more evidence of widespread state sponsored doping in Russia that led to calls from the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), United States and Canadian anti-doping officials and athletes groups to bar the country from the Rio Olympics.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC), however, rejected a blanket ban choosing instead to leave it up to each individual sport federation to determine which Russian athletes, if any, would be allow to take part in the Aug. 5-21 Games.

Volleyball's world governing body FIVB said that Russian athletes had been tested at the same level as all other countries and the majority of the testing had been conducted outside of Russia clearing the way for the both the men's and women's indoor and beach volleyball teams compete in Brazil.

"I would be so disappointed if that happened to me," said Priddy, 38, who lived and played in Russia from 2007 until 2012.

"I'm doing it the right way and a big contingent of my delegation was making wrong choices that it affected me who am making good choices.

"I'm glad they are here and I look forward to playing them."

A volleyball super power, the Russian men have medaled in the past four Olympics (one gold, one silver and two bronze) and along with World Cup champions the United States and host Brazil are among the gold medal favorites again.

The U.S. ended a 20-year drought when they took gold in Beijing while Brazil were on the podium the last three Olympics taking top spot at the 2004 Athens Games and silver in 2008 and 2012.

(Editing by Andrew Both)

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