Olga Zabelinskaya

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Russian Olympic medalist cyclist switches countries, fearing Tokyo 2020 ban

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Olga Zabelinskaya, a triple Olympic road cycling medalist, said she switched her nationality from Russia to Uzbekistan in fear of being excluded from the Tokyo 2020 Olympics as a Russian who served a doping ban, according to Russian media.

“You see what has been happening in Russian sport over the last two Olympic cycles,” the 38-year-old Zabelinskaya said, according to an RT translation of a Match TV interview. “It all started in Rio, then the situation only deteriorated in PyeongChang. I have a feeling that in Tokyo everything will be even worse. I’m 99 percent confident that my participation in the 2020 Olympics will be impossible under the Russian flag.”

Though Uzbekistan listed Zabelinskaya on its roster for the Asian Games that start next week, Russia’s cycling federation bosses will not cooperate with the switch, which could keep Zabelinskaya out of the 2020 Olympics, according to Olympic Charter Rule 41.

Some Russian athletes were excluded from the 2016 and 2018 Olympics due to the country’s poor anti-doping record. In PyeongChang, Russian athletes were allowed in on an IOC-invitation basis only with stars who previously served doping bans not making the cut to compete as neutrals.

Zabelinskaya served an 18-month doping ban between earning road race and time trial bronze medals at London 2012 and time trial silver at Rio 2016.

That suspension was due to keep her out of the Rio Games, per the IOC’s policy on Russia, but the Court of Arbitration for Sport cleared her as the Olympics began. Zabelinskaya maintained her innocence from cheating despite the charge.

“In the morning they told us we could participate. In the evening, they said we won’t. It was two weeks like this,” she said after the Rio Olympic time trial. “I had my ticket to go back to Russia. … I’m not the only cyclist that has a doping problem in the past.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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