Russian president Vladimir Putin said Olympic medals won in events lacking Russian contenders will be devalued, speaking to athletes who will be going to Rio at the Kremlin on Wednesday.
Russia is set to send just one track and field athlete, plus fewer athletes in many sports, to Rio amid its doping scandal.
It could significantly alter the Rio Olympic medal standings, as Russia finished third in overall medals at the 2012 London Games with 79 — behind the U.S.’ 103 and China’s 88.
“It is obvious that the absence of Russian athletes, the leaders in many sports events, significantly reduces the intensity of the competition, and hence makes the upcoming events less spectacular” Putin told the Russian team Wednesday, according to Russian news agency TASS. “I think that your colleagues from other world’s leading sports powers also understand that the quality of their medals will be different, because it’s one thing to defeat an equal, strong opponent, and quite another – to compete with obviously weaker opponents. Such victory has a very different taste or maybe bad taste.”
Also at the event, two-time Olympic pole vault champion Yelena Isinbayeva broke down while addressing the Olympic team (video here). Isinbayeva was barred from the Rio Games due to Russia’s track and field ban, though she has never failed a drug test.Follow @nzaccardi