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Former Russian Olympian: ‘Let All Those Foreign Pseudo-Clean Athletes Sigh With Relief’

Former Russian Olympian: ‘Let All Those Foreign Pseudo-Clean Athletes Sigh With Relief’

Russian Olympic pole vault champion Yelena Isinbayeva’s latest Instagram post is unquestionably — and intentionally — dramatic. The two-time gold medal winner sits close to the camera, her hair wrapped up in a towel. With her head tilted to the side and held up by her hand, Isinbayeva gazes into the distance with a hopeless look in her eyes.

“Now let all these foreign pseudo-clean athletes sigh with relief and win their pseudo-gold medals in our absence,” her photo caption reads, complete with multiple crying emojis. “They have always feared [our] strength.”

Her post came in response to the Swiss-based Court of Arbitration for Sport’s decision to ban the entire Russian track and field team from participating in the 2016 Olympics next month in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  

That decision, made by the world’s highest sports tribunal, could pave the way for the International Olympic Committee to impose a blanket ban on all Russian athletes over a massive, state-sponsored doping program. The growing scandal has revealed that the Russian government provided performance-enhancing drugs to athletes and then also helped them cheat their way through the urine tests designed to create an even playing field for athletes coming from different countries.

Russia hosted the last Winter Olympics in Sochi in 2014, and now certain athletes who participated in those games will be investigated to determine whether some medals need to be returned.

According to Isinbayeva, the ban on track and field athletes is “the funeral of athletics.”

Russian government officials agreed. Sport Minister Vitaly Mutko appeared on state-run television to say that the court’s decision was “absolutely violating the rights of clean athletes, creating a precedent of collective responsibility.” A spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry called the ban “a crime against sport.”

Sebastian Coe, president of the International Association of Athletics Federations, which had initiated the ban that Russia had tried to overturn at the arbitration court, said that his organization was happy to see their decision upheld but that Thursday was “not a day for triumphant statements.”

“I didn’t come into this sport to stop athletes from competing,” he said in a statement. “It is our federation’s instinctive desire to include, not exclude.”

That probably rang hollow for Sergei Litvinov, who planned to attend the Olympics as a hammer thrower. According to Reuters, his father was unable to compete in the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles due to the Cold War-inspired boycott by the Soviet Union. Now, due to the doping scandal, Litvinov himself won’t be the one to complete the unfulfilled legacy this year.  

“The funniest thing is that right now I am on my way to Moscow to receive my Russian team sports kit,” Litvinov said on Thursday. “What a paradox.”

Photo credit: Paul Gilham/Getty Images