- Title: RUSSIA/FILE: Doping scandal dents Russia's Olympic medal hopes
- Date: 2nd August 2008
- Summary: (RECENT - JULY 29, 2008) (REUTERS) RUSSIAN OLYMPIC TEAM AT OFFICIAL CEREMONY IN KREMLIN
- Embargoed: 17th August 2008 13:00
- Topics: Sports
- Reuters ID: LVAA08WA5PMW3254BN2KWRG1CBM3
- Story Text: The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) has banned seven leading Russian women after charging them with manipulating drug samples.
The seven are world indoor 1,500 metres champion Yelena Soboleva, twice world 1,500 metres champion Tatyana Tomashova, distance runners Yuliya Fomenko and Svetlana Cherkasova, European discus champion Darya Pishchalnikova, former hammer world record holder Gulfia Khanafeyeva and former world 5,000 metres champion Olga Yegorova.
The athletes were charged with fraudulently substituting urine during the doping control process, and suspended by the IAAF.
Russian newspapers said the bans appeared to be a foreign plot to deprive the national team of at least five golds at the Beijing starting on August 8.
Muscovites offered mixed views of the doping scandal on Friday (August 1) with several seeing the IAAF decision as a move designed to dent Russian medal hopes.
"Five of our golds have already been flushed down the drain,"
daily Izvestia said.
Seventy-year-old Victor Pavlenko agreed with many of the headlines Friday's morning papers, which saw the move as an attack on Russian Olympic chances.
"I believe this is clearly a provocation, I'm sure of this. This action coming just days before the start of the Olympics, I think indicates only one thing. They want to steal our medals and they've removed the athletes who could have won those medals," said Pavlenko.
"Switched" read a front-page banner headline in Sport-Express daily printed in large type normally reserved for the death of national leaders.
"We have yet to realise the scale of the catastrophe," the newspaper wrote. "It appears all of them (the female athletes) are merely hostages in somebody else's very big game."
Kommersant called the provisional ban "the biggest blow to Russia's Olympic team ... which is now sure to lack the golds it sorely needs to compete against the U.S. and Chinese teams".
One Muscovite chose to take a neutral stand, saying he was appalled at very fact of a doping scandal.
"I can't take sides in this matter, I personally think the very fact there is doping at all is outrageous,", he said on his way to work in Moscow's city centre.
Kristina Maximova said she blamed the IAAF for their action.
"I think its appalling on the part of the committee, and we'll lose four medals isn't that right?", said Maximova.
Another young man interviewed on Moscow's main shopping street, Tverskaya, said the athletes were not to blame for the doping scandal.
"It's not the responsibility of the athletes, it's the fault of their doctors, " he suggested.
All the athletes named by IAAF, bar Cherkasova, had already qualified for the Olympics and were leading contenders for medals.
On Friday (August 1), Yelena Soboleva denied she had manipulated her doping samples after the world indoor 1,500 metres champion and six other leading Russian women athletes were banned from the Olympics.
"I call what is happening now a provocation staged deliberately to knock out the potential medallists right before the Olympics," Kommersant business daily quoted Soboleva as saying.
Soboleva, 25, has been on fire this season, posting the world's best times in the 1,500 and 800.
She smashed her own indoor 1,500m world record to win gold at the world indoor championships in Valencia in March, with Fomenko finishing second.
Russia had originally expected to win about 90 medals in 20 events. It hoped its squad would trail only the United States and that host Olympic nation China would finish third in the medals table.
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