Olympics: 67 Russian athletes hope to compete in Rio, says Russian sports minister Mutko

Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said 67 Russian athletes hope to compete at the Olympic Games in August.
Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said 67 Russian athletes hope to compete at the Olympic Games in August.PHOTO: REUTERS

MOSCOW (AFP) - Sixty-seven Russian athletes are planning to apply to the IAAF to compete at the Olympic Games in August despite their country's suspension for state-sponsored doping, Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said on Saturday.

The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Council decided last week to maintain the ban on Russian track and field competitors in Rio after findings of drug-test violations, including ignored positive and altered test results.

But the IAAF left the door ajar and clean athletes could still compete in Rio if they can prove they have not been tainted by the disgraced Russian system.

The figure of 67, however, seems unrealistic because the IAAF has strict criteria, limiting applications to athletes who train outside Russia, which would exclude pole vault star Yelena Isinbayeva and 110m hurdles world champion Sergey Shubenkov.

"Tomorrow, 67 Russian athletes will submit their individual requests to participate in the Olympic Games, which they have the right to," Mutko told Russian television.

"It will be a huge failure for me if the entire Russian team is excluded.

"I'm ready to assume my responsibilities and resign."

Mutko added: "I'm not the one pushing the athletes to dope, but if there are failures, that means that I'm not working as I should."

The athletes are also running out of time because they must submit their application at least two weeks before the event they want to compete in, with the Olympics getting under way on Aug 5.

The applications will then be submitted to a "Doping Review Board" which will examine the validity of their claims.

Russian weightlifters also risk missing the Olympics after the sport's governing body, the IWF, put Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus on notice that they face being banned over repeat doping offences.

According to the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF), at least three Russians were positive in retests of samples from the 2008 and 2012 Olympics in Beijing and London.

The suspension will be confirmed once the International Olympic Committee has "disqualified" the offending athletes.