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The Dark Side of Condeming Russia's Olympic Athletes

Russia's Darya Klishina
Russia's Darya Klishina

The IAAF ruling on June 17th has permanently excluded the Russian National Olympic Team, a condemnation that was presented last year in November over supposed enhancement drug violations. Athletes from Russia, including those never suspected of using drugs to enhance their performance, have been disqualified from international events for the coming eight months. Including one of the greatest events in sports, the Olympic Games, that are to be held in Rio de Janeiro later  this summer. Athletes who have not doped are allowed to compete in Rio, but not under their homeland’s flag, but only that of the Olympic Games.  Here are some of some of the world’s top athletes, that may not be afforded the chance to compete.

Yelena Isinbaeva

Yelena Isinbayeva

Isinbayeva, along with other athletes from Russia, does not want to take the consideration to perform for the Olympic flag. Isinbayeva is a two time Olympic gold medalists, and holds dozens of Olympic and other track and field records. The world’s best female pole vaulter had the dream of crowning all those achievements by continuing her career after the birth of her child, specifically for competing in this year’s Olympic Games.Because of the IAAF decision, her last event in sports will be her homeland’s national championship in July.

“I am not considering any other options for competing in the Olympics other than as part of the national team,” Isinbayeva told reporters in December. Her stance on the matter has not differed since then. She sent an open letter to the New York Times stating that the clean athletes of her country should not be punished for those who have used and abused enhancement drugs, and that they should not be held accountable for faults in the system judging such matters.

Without Isinbayeva in the event in Rio, the United States' Jennifer Stuczynski is a certain gold medalist.

Sergey Shubenkov (Athletics Weekly)

Sergey Shubenkov

Shubenkov, whose performance at the World Championship in Beijing won him the gold in the 110 meter hurdles, will be also affected by the decision from the International Association of Athletics Federations. At the peak of his career, the world’s best hurdler will be subjected like others, by the ban on Russian athletes. His times for the 110 meter hurdles this season have shown (13.24 seconds) that he could possibly outstrip the Cuban world leader of the event, Orlando Ortega. Near the beginning of his international sports career, he opted to leave team events to focus on his own performance. Yet this rash decision from the IAAF have changed the course of his career forever.

Maria Kuchina (Athletics Weekly)

Maria Kuchina

Kuchina, like Shubenkov, is the world’s best in her event, high jumping. It was expected that this great athlete could mimic her performance in last year’s World Championship, where she earned gold. Kuchina trains at a removed installation in the South of Russia, within a short distance from her home Prokhladny. She has never been accused of doping, nor has any trace of enhancement drugs been found by a massive testing, despite the last few months of major scrutiny from the international sports world.

“Guests from WADA visit me once a month. Once they came into the gym right in the middle of a training session. They even visited me at home. At six in the morning, the bell rang: ‘I am a WADA officer. I am here to see Kuchina.' I am not bothered by any of it. I am ready to see them every day, if need be,” Kuchina told the Match TV channel.

Darya Klishina Дарья Клишина

Darya Klishina

At the beginning of her career, Klishina was seen as a shooting star of Russia’s track and field team. So far this year though, performance this season has been hampered by the IAAF, because Russian athletes are only allowed to compete in domestic events, and therefore have no chance to practice at international competitions. Klishina has vehemently requested that every athlete should be tested and banned or approved, rather than to penalize the entire Russian team.

“Because everybody is being brought down to one common denominator some clean athletes are even thinking of ending their careers. It is wrong. Each athlete decides for themselves how they are preparing for competitions. And everybody, including those athletes who have spotless reputation, should not suffer because of somebody who has crossed the line,” Klishina stated in a talk with sports.ru.

As you may now have already read, these four highly capable athletes, who have been training for years for the largest sports event in the world, now have their careers irreparably damaged by a callous and necessary decision by the IAAF. The IAAF and the IOC’s blatant disregard to the sportsmanship, and athleticism of innocent Russian athletes is daunting, and even insulting for the field of competition at such a sacred even as the Olympic Games.

In conclusion, we can only hope for a overturning of the decision, and at the very least that no such crime against athletes, who have trained their whole lives for the moments of glory they would receive in the international community, will never happen again. IOC President Thomas Bach has shown courage and integrity in suggesting these athlete should be able to compete under the Russian flag. But the WADA and IAAF detractors, cynical athletes with vested interests, and the politicians have even condemned even Bach's fair play effort. 

Western media chides support for the unprecedented ban of Russia, and somehow the sporting community has not come to the aid of honest athletes either. Rio 2016 may go down as history as the most unsportsmanlike Olympic Games in history. 

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