Tennis chiefs back Russian reprieve for Olympics

Russia’s tennis team will be allowed to compete at the Rio Olympics this summer after the International Tennis Federation (ITF) backed the decision not to impose a blanket ban on the country’s competitors.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced on Sunday that Russia would not be thrown out of the Games for running a state-directed doping programme, with international federations for individual sports instructed to rule on Russian athletes for themselves.

The ITF was quick to do so and announced that the Russian team will be welcome to compete in Brazil.

A statement read: “The ITF welcomes the decision of the IOC to permit clean athletes to compete in Rio 2016 and to let each International Federation determine the eligibility of its respective Russian athletes.

“The seven Russian tennis players who have been nominated to compete in Rio have been subject to a rigorous anti-doping testing programme outside Russia, which included a total of 205 samples collected since 2014.

“The ITF believes that this is sufficient for the seven Russian tennis players to meet the relevant requirement of today’s decision of the IOC Executive Board.

“The ITF will also be seeking confirmation from WADA that none of those players, or the Russian Tennis Federation, were implicated in the McLaren report, in accordance with the IOC decision.”

The Russian team was in fact increased to eight in an updated list published by the ITF on Tuesday, with Teymuraz Gabashvili added to the men’s singles competition to join Andrey Kuznetsov and Evgeny Donskoy.

Svetlana Kuznetsova, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Darya Kasatkina and Ekaterina Makarova will compete in women’s singles — Makarova added to the team due to Maria Sharapova’s drug ban — while Elena Vesnina will partner Makarova in the doubles.

Cycling is a sport which has confronted extensive problems of its own with drugsheadlined by Lance Armstrong being stripped of his seven Tour de France titles.

Brian Cookson, president of the sport’s governing body the UCI, told Sky Sports News: “The IOC take decisions in their wisdom and the IFs (international federations) have no real option but to accept them.

“We’ll live with it, we’ll make our decision on the basis of what we believe to be correct principles of natural justice and defending the integrity of our sport.

“I have to say that from what I can see, the majority of Russian riders that are selected for Olympics are within the registered testing pool and the biological passport.

“I think it will be difficult for us to ban an entire team given we know that many of those riders face regular testing from laboratories and anti-doping agencies around the world...I’m not sure how that fits with any interpretation of natural justice for those riders.”

Rowing’s world governing body FISA will consider the issue today. A statement on the organisation’s Twitter account read: “FISA has just received the IOC decision and is studying it carefully. Tomorrow at 4pm CET (3pm BST), FISA Executive Committee will have a telephone conference and then release its first indications.”

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