Olympics: Russian MPs slam 'repression' of athletes as IOC meets

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov delivers a speech at the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, in Moscow, on June 15, 2016.
Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov delivers a speech at the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, in Moscow, on June 15, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS

MOSCOW (AFP) - Russia's parliament on Tuesday (June 21) blasted the ban on Russian athletes as "repression" and called for leniency for competitors unmarred by doping claims ahead of the Rio Olympic Games.

Last week, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) upheld a ban on Russia's track and field stars over state-sponsored doping in a move blasted by President Vladimir Putin as "unfair".

But the IAAF left a door open for the possible participation of athletes untainted by the scandal, with the issue to be discussed by Olympic executives in Lausanne on Tuesday.

Russia's Duma lower house of parliament on Tuesday said that banning the entire team was tantamount to "using sport as an instrument in a political battle" and said "repressions against competitors never implicated in unfair game" would undermine the Olympic movement.

The declaration, which was unanimously backed by 429 lawmakers in the Kremlin-loyal parliament, accused "sports bureaucrats" of introducing a "presumption of guilt toward athletes of a specific country" in a move which harked back to "the inquisition and totalitarian regimes".

The Duma "hopes that common sense prevails over emotions and an objective decision is taken," the declaration said.

In upholding the ban on Russia's athletics federation last week, the IAAF left a possible loophole for some athletes who are "not tainted by the Russian system" to compete in Rio, but it was not immediately clear what that meant nor how many athletes might be able to participate.

The International Olympic Committee has itself acknowledged the difficulties in reconciling collective responsibility and individual justice.

Russia's Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko on Monday suggested that the entire Russian Olympic team could be banned from Rio, following some allegations that other sports could be tainted by institutionalised doping use.