ZHUKOVSKY, Russia (AFP) - Russian athletes on Thursday (July 21) reacted with a mixture of anger and despair after the Court of Arbitration for Sport dashed their dreams of competing at the Rio Olympics by rejecting an appeal against a ban for doping.
High jumper Maria Kuchina - a medal hopeful for the Games - was competing at an event near Moscow that she hoped would be a warm-up for Brazil when the news she had been dreading came through.
"My first reaction was: it's just not true! How can it be! The world's going crazy," 23-year-old Kuchina told journalists.
"It was supposed to be my first Games and it is a serious blow to me - both as an athlete and as a person."
Other sports stars lashed out furiously against the ruling that Moscow has often portrayed as part of a broader campaign against Russia.
Two-time Olympic pole vault gold medallist Yelena Isinbayeva - who had been hoping to end her stellar career with victory at her fifth Olympics - said the ruling would deal a mortal blow to international athletics.
"Thank you all for this funeral for athletics," Isinbayeva, 34, told Tass.
"This is a blatant political order."
Later, she wrote angrily on Instagram: "Let all those 'clean' foreign athletes breathe a sigh of relief and win their pseudo-gold medals in our absence. Strength has always been feared."
World champion hurdler Sergey Shubenkov, 25, also posted a picture of himself holding his head and looking glum after the ruling.
"What a shame. Well done, congrats, enjoy "clean" sport," he wrote on Instagram.
The CAS ruling backed up a decision from athletics governing body the IAAF to slap a blanket ban on Russia's track and field team ahead of the Olympics over evidence of state-sponsored doping.
Official reaction echoed the response from the athletes as the authorities frantically claimed they had done all they could to avoid the ban and stop the rot in the sport.
"In my view, this is a subjective and somewhat politicised decision for which there is no legal basis," Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko told Tass news agency.
Mutko - a close ally of President Vladimir Putin - has clung onto his job despite the jaw-dropping scandal and later Thursday railed against international sporting authorities and the West at a rambling televised press conference.
"The court has taken a decision that violates the rights of clean athletes," he said. "We are going to continue to defend our dignity. It is time to go to a civil court."
The Kremlin also expressed "deep regret" over the move and said that it was unfair to ban all athletes from competing at the Games.
"The idea of collective responsibility from our point of view can hardly be considered acceptable," spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists.
"We are talking about athletes training for the Olympics who have no connection to doping, who have no connection to any accusations or suspicions," Peskov said.
"On this we can only express deep regret."
The situation could be set to get much worse for Moscow as the the International Olympic Committee said this week it would take into account the CAS ruling as it weighs up whether to ban all Russian competitors from Rio over more widespread doping accusations.