Russia loses Olympic track and field ban appeal

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LONDON (AP) – Now that Russian track and field athletes have failed in their effort to have their Olympic ban overturned, it’s up to the IOC to decide whether to kick the entire Russian team out of the games that begin in Rio de Janeiro in 15 days.

In another blow to the image of the sports superpower, the highest court in sports on Friday dismissed an appeal by 68 Russian track athletes of the ban imposed by the IAAF following allegations of systematic and state-sponsored doping.

Sports officials in Moscow condemned the ruling as “political,” and said some athletes might take their case to civil courts. Two-time Olympic pole vault champion Yelena Isinbayeva said the Rio Games will be devalued, with only “pseudo-gold medals” available.

In its ruling, the Court of Arbitration for Sport found that track and field’s world governing body, the IAAF, had properly applied its own rules in keeping the Russians out of the games that begin Aug. 5.

The three-man panel ruled that the Russian Olympic Committee “is not entitled to nominate Russian track and field athletes to compete at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games considering that they are not eligible to participate under the IAAF competition rules.”

The Russians had argued against a collective ban, saying it punishes those athletes who have not been accused of wrongdoing.

The IAAF praised the decision, saying: “Today’s judgment has created a level playing field for athletes.”

MORE: Five Russian track and field stars set to miss Rio

IAAF President Sebastian Coe, who has declared the ban is crucial to protecting the integrity of the competition, said it was “not a day for triumphant statements.”

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

Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko suggested Russia could take the case to a civil court. CAS general secretary Matthieu Reeb said the Russians have the right to appeal to the Swiss federal tribunal within 30 days, but only on “procedural grounds,” not the merits of the decision. Olympic bodies and athletes sign up to CAS jurisdiction, and its rulings have very rarely been overturned.

Reeb said the ruling is not binding on the International Olympic Committee, which has the final say as the supreme organizer of the games. However, the IOC last month accepted the IAAF decision to maintain its ban on the Russian athletes.

“The door is open for the IOC to decide, to determine even on a case-by-case principle whether these athletes are eligible or not,” Reeb told reporters outside the court headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland.

While the ruling clears the way for other individual sports federations to apply similar bans on Russians, it also increases pressure on the IOC to take the unprecedented step of excluding the whole Russian team. The IOC has never banned an entire country from the games for doping, and the last time Russia missed the Olympics was in 1984, when the Soviet Union boycotted the Los Angeles Games.

The World Anti-Doping Agency, along with many national anti-doping bodies and athletes groups, have called on the IOC to impose a total ban on Russia following fresh allegations of state-orchestrated cheating across dozens of Olympic sports.

Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren, who was commissioned by WADA, issued a scathing report Monday that accused Russia’s Sports Ministry of orchestrating a doping system that affected 28 summer and winter Olympic sports. Officers of Russia’s intelligence service, the FSB, were also involved in the cheating, which included swapping of doping samples at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, McLaren found.

On Tuesday, the IOC executive board said it would “explore the legal options” for a possible total ban on Russia but would wait until after the CAS ruling before making a final decision.

The IOC executive board is scheduled to hold another emergency meeting Sunday via teleconference to consider the issue. In a statement Thursday, the IOC said it “takes note” of the CAS ruling upholding the track and field ban.

“We will now have to study and analyze the full decision,” the IOC said. “The IOC decision on the participation of the Russian athletes will be taken in the coming days.”

Former WADA president Dick Pound, an IOC member from Canada, accused the IOC of dithering and said the committee does not show the appetite to apply a total ban.

“You’ve got the power to simply withdraw the invitation and say, ‘Sorry, your country has not demonstrated any understanding or respect of rules for clean competition. You’re not welcome,'” Pound said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.

Pound, who authored a WADA report last year that detailed cheating in Russia and led to the IAAF ban, criticized the IOC for suggesting that individual federations could decide whether to exclude Russian athletes in their own sports, rather than imposing a complete ban itself.

“Why is the IOC not acting in the face of incontrovertible evidence of government interference?” he said. “What else do you need?”

A group of 14 national anti-doping agencies sent a letter to IOC President Thomas Bach urging a complete ban “to uphold the Olympic Charter and the integrity of the Rio Olympic Games.” Among the countries represented in the letter were the United States, Canada, Germany, New Zealand and Austria.

Germany’s Olympic committee president Alfons Hoermann said the CAS verdict was a “clear signal to the IOC.”

“Where we have systematic cheating, we also must have systematic punishment,” he said.

As it stands, the IAAF has approved just two Russians to compete, as “neutral athletes,” after they showed they had been training and living abroad under a robust drug-testing regime. One is doping whistleblower and 800-meter runner Yulia Stepanova; the other is Florida-based long jumper Darya Klishina.

Mutko said a Russian government committee will be formed to examine the McLaren report.

He added Russian athletes will continue to “defend their honor and dignity” even though any legal proceedings may not be held before the games begin.

Russia canceled a ceremonial send-off Friday for its Olympic athletes heading to Rio.

Isinbayeva, the pole vault world record holder who is the face and voice of Russian track and field, told the state news agency TASS that the ruling marked “the funeral” of her sport.

She had been aiming for her fifth Olympics and was a leading voice in calling for the ban to be overturned, even speaking at Tuesday’s CAS hearing.

In comments on her Instagram page, Isinbayeva suggested that some of her foreign rivals could be doping and wanted Russia banned to make the competition easier.

“Let all these pseudo-clean foreign athletes breathe a sigh of relief and win their pseudo-gold medals without us,” she said. “They’ve always been frightened of strength.”

Vera Rebrik, who won gold in the javelin for Ukraine at the European Championships before switching her allegiance to Russia after the annexation of Crimea in 2014, was left out by the ruling.

“I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. … I can’t find the words,” she told Russian state broadcaster Match TV.

MORE: Usain Bolt reacts to Russia decision

Kenenisa Bekele still eyes Eliud Kipchoge’s marathon world record, but a duel must wait

Kenenisa Bekele
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LONDON — Kenenisa Bekele made headlines last week by declaring “of course I am the best” long distance runner ever. But the Ethiopian was fifth-best at Sunday’s London Marathon, finishing 74 seconds behind Kenya’s Amos Kipruto.

Bekele, 40, clocked 2:05:53, the fastest-ever marathon by a runner 40 years or older. He was with the lead pack until being dropped in the 21st mile.

But Bekele estimated he could have run 90 to 120 seconds faster had he not missed parts of six weeks of training with hip and joint injuries.

“I expect better even if the preparation is short,” he said. “I know my talent and I know my capacity, but really I couldn’t achieve what I expect.”

Bekele is the second-fastest marathoner in history behind Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge, who broke his own world record by clocking 2:01:09 at the Berlin Marathon last week.

“I am happy when I see Eliud Kipchoge run that time,” Bekele said. “It motivates all athletes who really expect to do the same thing.”

LONDON MARATHON: Results

Bekele’s best time was within two seconds of Kipchoge’s previous world record (2:01:39). He described breaking Kipchoge’s new mark as the “main goal” for the rest of his career.

“Yes, I hope, one day it will happen, of course,” Bekele said. “With good preparation, I don’t know when, but we will see one more time.”

Nobody has won more London Marathons than Kipchoge, a four-time champion who set the course record (2:02:37) in 2019. But the two-time Olympic marathon champion did not run this year in London, as elite marathoners typically choose to enter one race each spring and fall.

Bekele does not know which race he will enter in the spring. But it will not be against Kipchoge.

“I need to show something first,” Bekele said. “I need to run a fast time. I have to check myself. This is not enough.”

Kipchoge will try to become the first runner to win three Olympic marathon titles at the Paris Games. Bekele, who will be 42 in 2024, has not committed to trying to qualify for the Ethiopian team.

“There’s a long time to go before Paris,” Bekele said. “At this moment I am not decided. I have to show something.”

So who is the greatest long distance runner ever?

Bekele can make a strong case on the track:

Bekele
Four Olympic medals (three gold)
Six World Championship medals (five gold)
Former 5000m and 10,000m world-record holder

Kipchoge
Two Olympic medals
Two World Championship medals (one gold)

But Kipchoge can make a strong case on the pavement:

Bekele
Second-fastest marathoner in history
Two World Marathon Major victories

Kipchoge
Four of the five best marathon times in history
Two-time Olympic marathon champion
12 World Marathon Major victories

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Yalemzerf Yehualaw, Amos Kipruto win London Marathon

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Ethiopian Yalemzerf Yehualaw became the youngest female runner to win the London Marathon, while Kenyan Amos Kipruto earned the biggest victory of his career in the men’s race.

Yehualaw, 23, clocked 2:17:26, prevailing by 41 seconds over 2021 London champ Joyciline Jepkosgei of Kenya.

Yehualaw tripped and fell over a speed bump around the 20-mile mark. She quickly rejoined the lead pack, then pulled away from Jepkosgei by running the 24th mile in a reported 4:43, which converts to 2:03:30 marathon pace; the women’s world record is 2:14:04.

Yehualaw and Jepkosgei were pre-race favorites after world record holder Brigid Kosgei of Kenya withdrew Monday with a right hamstring injury.

On April 24, Yehualaw ran the fastest women’s debut marathon in history, a 2:17:23 to win in Hamburg, Germany.

She has joined the elite tier of female marathoners, a group led by Kenyan Peres Jepchirchir, the reigning Olympic, New York City and Boston champion. Another Ethiopian staked a claim last week when Tigist Assefa won Berlin in 2:15:37, shattering Yehualaw’s national record.

Joan Benoit Samuelson, the first Olympic women’s marathon champion in 1984, finished Sunday’s race in 3:20:20 at age 65.

LONDON MARATHON: Results

Kipruto, 30, won the men’s race in 2:04:39. He broke free from the leading group in the 25th mile and crossed the finish line 33 seconds ahead of Ethiopian Leul Gebresilase, who said he had hamstring problems.

Kipruto, one of the pre-race favorites, had never won a major marathon but did finish second behind world record holder Eliud Kipchoge in Tokyo (2022) and Berlin (2018) and third at the world championships (2019) and Tokyo (2018).

Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele, the second-fastest marathoner in history, was fifth after being dropped in the 21st mile. His 2:05:53 was the fastest-ever marathon by a runner 40 years or older. Bekele ran his personal best at the 2019 Berlin Marathon — 2:01:41 — and has not run within four minutes of that time since.

The major marathon season continues next Sunday with the Chicago Marathon, headlined by a women’s field that includes Kenyan Ruth Chepngetich and American Emily Sisson.

London returns next year to its traditional April place after being pushed to October the last three years due to the pandemic.

MORE: Bekele looks ahead to Kipchoge chase after London Marathon

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