MOSCOW • Russia expects to avoid a blanket ban from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on its competitors at the Rio Olympics, despite its track and field squad losing an appeal over a suspension for state-sponsored doping.
"All sportsmen who have not been convicted or are not under suspicion of doping should have the right to compete," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said yesterday. "That is the decision we are counting on."
The IOC's executive board will hold a conference call tomorrow to discuss banning Russia from the Rio Games starting on Aug 5.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) on Thursday ruled against Russia's athletes, in a decision seen as a key indicator as the IOC debates whether to kick out the whole Russian team.
The IOC is facing international pressure to act tough on Russia and ban the entire team over bombshell revelations of a state-run doping system that has seen the country cheat its way to victory.
Fourteen national anti-doping agencies, including the United States, Canada and Germany, sent a joint letter to IOC president Thomas Bach on Thursday, urging him to ban Russia from Rio.
Moscow slammed the decision by the CAS to reject its appeal against a ban by the International Association of Athletics Federations, calling it part of a broader political campaign by the West against Russia.
The suspension of the track and field team already means that star athletes like pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva and hurdler Sergey Shubenkov will not be in Rio.
Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko - who has clung on to his post despite the scandal - said Moscow now hopes the IOC will defer to individual international sporting federations to decide whether other Russian squads can compete.
Russia has found support from some international sports bodies, with the International Judo Federation (IJF) insisting that all clean athletes should be allowed to take part in Rio.
"We hope that by allowing participation of Russian athletes in Rio 2016, we will send out a positive message to all the young people who deserve to be given examples of friendship instead of examples of Cold War," said IJF president Marius Vizer.
Individual Russian federations said they were now looking nervously ahead for the IOC to make its next move.
"We're all in suspense waiting for the IOC decision," wrestling federation president Mikhail Mamiashvili said. "I hope that the common sense and personal responsibility of those who will take the decision will prevail."
The IAAF banned the entire Russian track and field team from all competitions earlier, over allegations of state-sponsored doping, but said athletes who prove they were not tainted by their country's corrupt system could be cleared.
Athletics' world governing body has given permission only to Russia's US-based long jumper Darya Klishina to compete in Rio as a neutral.
The IOC has appeared to back the principle that international sporting federations could clear individual athletes in case of a blanket ban, but with just two weeks to go until Rio, time is slipping away.