MOSCOW (REUTERS) - President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday blamed a shadowy campaign for unfairly stripping some Russian sportsmen and women of the right to compete at the Rio Olympics over doping allegations, hitting out at what he called short-sighted political schemers.
Mr Putin, addressing members of Russia's Olympic team in the Kremlin, said that the decision by international sporting organisations to ban some Russian athletes from the games, flew in the face of common sense and legality.
"The deliberate campaign targeting our athletes was characterised by so-called double standards and opted for the idea of collective responsibility, which is not compatible with sport, justice in general, or the basic norms of law," he said.
The Russian leader said the scandal, which centres on allegations that the Russian government and the FSB security service systematically covered up doping for years, had unfairly targeted many Russian sportsmen who had not even faced specific and proven accusations.
"This is a blow to the entire sporting world and to the Olympic Games," said Mr Putin.
"It is obvious that the absence of Russian sportspeople - leaders in many sporting disciplines - will significantly affect the intensity of the competition and diminish the spectator value of the forthcoming events."
He said any medal won in Rio in the absence of Russian athletes would be worth much less than otherwise and that such victories would have a completely different taste.