“You can’t remove anyone just because you have a passport”
The situation around the possible removal of Russia from international competitions continues to be discussed throughout the world. While some sports officials are urging the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) to follow the recommendations of the compliance committee and apply the most stringent sanctions, athletes have sided with their colleagues.
To the surprise of many, the Russians were supported by the French biathlete Martin Fourcade. In his opinion, it would be unfair if the whole country suffers due to several violators.
“Pure athletes should always have the opportunity to compete. You can’t exclude anyone from the Olympic Games and World Championships just because you have a passport and only because their country made mistakes, ”Fourcade said on Match TV.
It is worth noting that the five-time world champion is famous for his intolerance towards colleagues involved in doping scandals. So, he repeatedly expressed dissatisfaction with the presence at the international starts of Russian Alexander Loginov, who served a two-year suspension for the use of erythropoietin. According to Fourcade, he does not trust athletes in whose past there are similar episodes.
Some athletes and specialists expressed disappointment with the recommendations of the WADA committee and noted the importance of Russia in the world sports arena. Siegfried Maze, head coach of the Norwegian biathlon team, admitted that he would be upset if the sanctions did take effect.
“Honestly, I think it's overkill. Of course, people involved in doping matters should be isolated. But what do young athletes have to do with it? I think WADA should be ashamed. Such a decision will not do much honor to the agency. I can’t imagine biathlon without the Russian flag, ”said Mase.
With the mentor, his wards remained in solidarity. So, seven-time world champion Johannes Boe called on WADA to explain his position and noted the need for a transparent investigation.
“If Russia is uncoupled, then they must provide evidence, put it on the table, make it available online so that everyone can familiarize themselves. You can’t just take it and say that the country has been removed on the basis of some secret materials, ”Boe shared his opinion.
However, there is another point of view. Swedish biathlete Sebastian Samuelsson said he would like to see Russian athletes in the competition, but the anti-doping agency should heed the recommendations of the committee.
“WADA should remove Russia. Maybe some athletes should be allowed, but in a neutral status, ”the Olympic champion Pyeongchang-2018 is sure.
In turn, the head of the International Biathlon Union (IBU), Olle Dalin, called for a final decision. He called Russia part of the biathlon family, which, however, needs to deal with internal problems.
“The WADA Compliance Committee has completed its work and made recommendations. What they did is very serious. I do not want to say anything until a final decision is made, because I myself do not know the details. Of course, the situation for Russian sports is now very difficult, ”RIA Novosti quoted Dalin as saying.
“The situation haunts neither athletes nor coaches”
WADA decisions regarding the compliance status of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) and possible sanctions are expected in Russia.
The winner of the 2019 World Cup in freestyle wrestling, Alikhan Zhabrailov, spoke about how the current situation affects the athletes themselves and their competitive mood. In an interview with News.ru, he emphasized that speaking under the flag of his country is of great importance to him.
“What is happening is some kind of lawlessness. Of course, this whole situation haunts neither athletes nor coaches. We hear and discuss everything. But we, athletes, try to keep all these topics close to us, because our minds are slightly different — we train, prepare for the upcoming competitions and don’t want to start up any negative thoughts in our heads, ”said Zhabrailov.
Ilya Ivanyuk, the bronze medalist of the 2019 World Jumping Championships, also admitted that he took hard the news of the possible isolation of Russia from world sports.
“When all this bad news began to appear, I was worried and did not sleep for several nights. There is no smoke without fire, but it seems to me that we have come under too much pressure. Why is there such an emphasis on us? Not a single mistake is forgiven for us. I myself can’t influence the situation and all I can do now is train and continue to prepare for the unexpected, ”TASS quoted the athlete as saying.
The head of the Biathlon Federation of St. Petersburg, Dmitry Vasiliev, is also convinced that the incident was not accidental.
“It is obvious that an order has been made for Russia. There is no question of any justice. This is clear even to our opponents, they just keep quiet. Nothing good can be expected from these clever people, especially from WADA. They are imprisoned against us, this is a kind of cold war. Why they’re afraid to talk about it, I don’t understand. World sport without Russia is abnormal, ”Vasiliev told the publication Sport Day after Day.
After the recommendation of the compliance committee was made public, many began to speculate on what the Russian side should do if RUSADA was disqualified. Some experts advocated the need to assert their rights in the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne (CAS), while others called for reconciliation with the situation and focus on restoring the reputation. The President of the Russian Gymnastics Federation (FSGR) Vasily Titov urged not to draw hasty conclusions, but at the same time be prepared for any development of events.
“It seems important to me to be prepared legally, as well as to prevent what many are counting on - disunity within the sports community. They count on the fact that we will begin to change citizenship, move to other teams. I am sure that we must be a team of Russia, to remain faithful to our flag and prepare for the Olympic Games, ”Izvestia quoted Titova.