Yelena Isinbayeva

Yelena Isinbayeva
AP

Yelena Isinbayeva prepares to retire after Russian ban from Rio

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Two-time Olympic pole vault champ Yelena Isinbayeva, Russia’s most famous track and field athlete, said she sees “no sense in continuing my training further,” according to her social media translated by Russian media.

The comment came after the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled Thursday that Isinbayeva and 67 other Russian track and field athletes will not be allowed to compete in Rio.

Isinbayeva said she will train through Sunday, when the International Olympic Committee executive board is scheduled to hold an emergency meeting to consider a possible ban of all Russian athletes from Rio.

Isinbayeva said it would take “a miracle” for Russian track and field athletes (other than the allowed Yulia Stepanova and Darya Klishina) to be let back into the Games, according to Russian media.

Isinbayeva, 34 and the world-record holder, last competed internationally at the 2013 World Championships (where she won) and then took off 2014 and 2015 and early 2016 due to a pregnancy and then injury.

In her June return, she cleared 4.90 meters to win the Russian Championship in Cheboksary. It’s the best clearance of any woman in the world this year. Isinbayeva would be the Olympic favorite if she was allowed to compete in Rio.

“We were planning to clear the height not lower than 5.1 meters [in Rio],” Isinbayeva, whose world record is 5.06 meters, said, according to Russian news agency TASS. “My coach and I expected that I would win with a world record at the Olympics.”

With Isinbayeva out, the Olympic favorites include London 2012 champion Jenn Suhr of the U.S., 2015 World champion Yarisley Silva of Cuba and Brazil’s most decorated active track and field athlete, Fabiana Murer.

MORE: Five Russian stars set to miss Rio Olympics

Russia’s track and field stars angered by Rio Olympics ban

DAEGU, SOUTH KOREA - AUGUST 30:  Elena Isinbaeva of Russia looks on  during the women's pole vault final during day four of the 13th IAAF World Athletics Championships at the Daegu Stadium on August 30, 2011 in Daegu, South Korea.  (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
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ZHUKOVSKY, Russia (AP) — Russia’s top athletes reacted with anger after the news broke Thursday that their track and field team would remain banned from next month’s Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

Two-time Olympic champion pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva, the team’s biggest star, wrote on Instagram that without Russia, historically a track superpower, only “pseudo-gold medals” would be on offer at a devalued Rio Olympics.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport’s decision – to reject an appeal against an earlier ban – marked the “funeral” for track and field, Isinbayeva told state news agency Tass.

At a competition near Moscow that had been scheduled as a final tune-up before the games, most athletes saw the ruling as fundamentally unjust, and based on unfair allegations of mass doping and government cover-ups.

“It’s a big blow for me personally and for the athletes,” said world high jump champion Maria Kuchina, who would have been a strong contender for gold at her first Olympics.

Three hours after news came through that Russia’s appeal against the ban by the International Association of Athletics Federations had been rejected, Kuchina leapt 2 meters in front of the sparse crowd. The jump would have been good enough to have won the gold medal at the European championships earlier this month – if she and the rest of the Russian team had not been suspended.

“Despite all the difficulties and problems, we kept training,” she said. “Today I showed that I’d be in contention for the Olympic podium, regardless of the news today.”

A string of reports from the World Anti-Doping Agency and an IAAF taskforce that focused on widespread doping in Russian track and field, along with alleged cover-ups involving high-ranking government officials, have done little to convince Russian athletes that their team deserves punishment.

“A lot of the facts aren’t confirmed, it’s complete slander and they’re still putting pressure on us,” said Vera Rudakova, one of the world’s top young hurdlers.

Bans for individual dopers are fair, but not the exclusion of a whole team, hurdler Timofey Chaly argued.

“It’s dishonest,” he said. “There are people who decided for themselves that they can dope and maybe somehow they’d get away with it. That didn’t happen and they got bans, that’s fair.”

Russia’s ban contained a bitter irony for former European javelin champion Vera Rebrik, who switched allegiance from Ukraine to Russia in 2014 after her home region of Crimea was annexed by Russia. She will now miss the Olympics because of her new nation’s ban.

“I don’t know whether to laugh or cry,” she told state TV.

A minority of Russian athletes think the cloud has a silver lining.

A ban from Rio could be the incentive needed for Russia to take action, according to hammer thrower Sergei Litvinov, a strident anti-doping voice on the Russian team.

He told The Associated Press that Russian athletics officials failed to act on doping in time and hopes “that this situation can encourage the management” to push through reforms. Litvinov says the next step for international authorities should be to investigate what he believes are Russian-style organized doping schemes in other countries.

“I want all (doping) systems to be shut down. Not just ours, but all of them,” Litvinov said.

As it stands, Russia’s once-vaunted track team could be reduced to just a single athlete at the Rio Olympics.

Long jumper Darya Klishina was exempted from the ban by the IAAF because she lives and trains in Florida at an academy run by sports marketing company IMG and has been tested for years by the U.S. anti-doping agency, not Russia’s scandal-hit equivalent.

However, some Russian fans have turned on her since she received permission to compete, calling her a traitor and demanding she refuse her Olympic spot in solidarity with banned teammates.

But those same teammates want Klishina to succeed.

Kuchina said Thursday she will “obviously” support Klishina.

“I don’t think she’s a traitor,” Rudakova said. “The IAAF gave us its criteria and Dasha was lucky that it worked out for her…We’ll cheer her on,” she added, using Klishina’s nickname.

The IAAF has also allowed Russian doping whistleblower Yulia Stepanova to race, but the 800-meter runner is struggling with injury and has not set a competitive time this year.

Regardless of their views on Russia’s doping scandal, almost all of its athletes must now rebuild their careers and hope to return to international competition next season.

Outspoken in his criticism of dopers, Litvinov even asked the IAAF to give him more doping tests.

Now in the same boat as his less strident teammates, he says all that’s left is to “try not to lose motivation for next year.”

MORE: Russia loses Olympic track and field ban appeal

Five Russian track and field stars set to miss Rio Olympics

Maria Kuchina, Anna Chicherova
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Russia’s ban from Olympic track and field means some of the sport’s most successful athletes are not eligible for the Rio Games.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport rejected the appeal by 68 Russian track and field athletes seeking to overturn the ban imposed by the IAAF following allegations of state-sponsored doping and cover-ups.

Here are five Russian Olympic or World champions who are set to miss the Rio Games:

Yelena Isinbayeva, Pole Vault
Olympic champion in 2004, 2008
World champion in 2005, 2007, 2013
World-record holder

Isinbayeva, a 34-year-old converted youth gymnast, is the greatest female pole vaulter of all time and one of the greatest athletes in Russian history across all sports. She has broken the world record 17 times.

Isinbayeva is certainly past her prime, and her fitness a complete unknown after taking 2014 and 2015 off due to pregnancy and her build-up to Rio set back by injuries. She went three years between competing until June 21, when she cleared the highest height in the world this year.

MORE: Russian Olympic ban upheld by court | Ten U.S. athletes who may benefit

Anna Chicherova, High Jump
Olympic champion in 2012
World champion in 2011

Chicherova has been the most consistent female track and field athlete in the world the last decade. She and Usain Bolt are the only track and field athletes to earn individual medals at every Olympics and World Championships since 2007.

However, the 33-year-old reportedly failed a recent retest of 2008 Beijing Olympic doping samples, putting her bronze medal from those Games in jeopardy. Like Isinbayeva, Chicherova is in the twilight of her career. Her best clearance in domestic competitions this year would rank No. 4 in the world.

Sergey Shubenkov, 110m Hurdles
World champion in 2015

At age 25, Shubenkov is arguably the biggest Russian track and field star at or near a career peak. He was eliminated in the first round at 2011 Worlds, then the semifinals of the 2012 Olympics before winning bronze at the 2013 Worlds and gold last year.

Shubenkov has struggled this year while not being able to compete internationally, with a best time of 13.20 seconds that would be joint ninth place in world rankings, according to Tilastopaja.org.

Shubenkov said before Thursday’s ruling that he would “get drunk” if Russia lost its appeal.

Natalya Antyukh, 400m Hurdles
Olympic champion in 2012

Antyukh, 34, beat American Lashinda Demus by .07 for London Olympic gold, eight years after taking bronze in the Athens Olympic 400m (without hurdles).

Antyukh has also been a longtime member of the 4x400m relay pool for Russia, a close rival to the U.S. over the last 10 to 15 years. Her Rio Olympic 400m hurdles chances were not great, given she ranked No. 42 in the world last year and withdrew before the 2015 World Championships.

Maria Kuchina, High Jump
World champion in 2015

Kuchina, 23, set a personal best to win the 2015 World Championship, continuing a strong tradition of female Russian high jumpers. She was expected to make her Olympic debut in Rio.

Kuchina told NBC News in June that she has never taken performance-enhancing drugs, nor been urged to take performance-enhancing drugs.

“Why should I pay for someone else’s mistakes?” she said, according to NBC News.

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