Russia's athletes keep sights on Rio despite doping ban

Tue Mar 1, 2016 9:44am EST
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By Jack Stubbs and Dmitriy Rogovitskiy

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Barred from international competition, Russia is training its athletes at a series of special domestic tournaments and banking on hopes a doping ban will be lifted in time for this year's Rio Olympics.

While rivals will pit their strength at the world indoor games in the United States in March, Russian athletes have had to make do with a winter season supplemented with five additional Grand Prix events across a country where sporting success is seen as integral to national pride.

Some athletes are employing an approach favoured by sports psychologists of compartmentalized thinking: focusing on their training and performance, while leaving outside issues such as the uncertainty about their place at the Olympics, to others.

"I didn't participate in these scandals and don't even understand it," hurdler Konstantin Shabanov told Reuters at the Russian Athletics Championship in Moscow.

"In the first case, our athletics federation should be thinking about this ban .., not sportsmen. I have to think about running, training and results."

Russia, second behind the United States in the track and field medal table at the London 2012 Olympics, was suspended from world athletics last year after a doping investigation exposed widespread cheating and corruption. The World Anti-Doping Agency report cited graft among international officials and suggested the scandal could widen.

Now Russia faces a race against time to meet anti-doping standards dictated by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) before the Rio Games in August, an ambition some say is unrealistic.

As things stand, Russian athletes will be barred from competing, the first time Russia has missed the Olympics since the Soviet Union boycotted the Los Angeles Games in 1984.   Continued...