'Not so rosy': Russian athletes face prospect of Olympics ban

  • Calls to bar Russians from Olympics grow
  • Ukraine threatens to boycott Paris 2024 Games
  • Russian athletics body under doping sanctions
  • This content was produced in Russia where the law restricts coverage of Russian military operations in Ukraine

MOSCOW, Feb 10 (Reuters) - Russian athletics stars are no strangers to being barred from international competitions, and the prospect of missing next year's Olympics over the invasion of Ukraine has piled onto years of frustration felt towards global sports bodies.

Since the International Olympic Committee (IOC) opened the door for Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete as neutrals at the 2024 Paris Games, calls to have them excluded have snowballed.

At an indoor track in northeastern Moscow on Friday, hurdler Sergey Shubenkov said he was avoiding reading the news about Russia's Olympic prospects.

"As an athlete, I devoted all of my life to this sport and always did my job," said Shubenkov, the 2015 world champion in the 110m hurdles and a two-time Olympian. "And I'm being told now, 'You're a good guy but we don't need you'."

A group of 35 countries, including the United States, Germany and Australia, will demand that Russian and Belarusian athletes are banned from the 2024 Olympics, the Lithuanian sports minister said on Friday, stepping up pressure on the IOC.

Ukraine and some of its allies have already threatened to boycott the Paris Games if Russian and Belarusian athletes compete, while the IOC has left it to international federations to decide whether athletes from Russia and Belarus should be given a pathway to qualify.

"Much will depend on how World Athletics will behave," Shubenkov said. "And there, of course, everything is not so rosy."

Shubenkov was one of 10 Russians selected by World Athletics, the sport's international governing body, to compete at the Tokyo Games without Russia's flag or anthem.

The measure was taken as part of wider sanctions against the Russian athletics federation, which has been suspended since 2015 over doping offences.

When asked about the prospect of not being able to defend her Olympic title, high jumper Maria Lasitskene said: "It's tough psychologically so I try to keep it together, train, compete and jump."

Former sprinter Irina Privalova, a four-time Olympic medallist who now serves as deputy head of Russia's athletics federation, dismissed the suggestion that dissidents among Russian athletes could be allowed to compete as refugees.

"Athletes and any Russian citizen who does not support the president's (Vladimir Putin's) decision should not represent the country," she told Reuters.

"I think those who don't support (Russia's special military operation in Ukraine) have already left. The ones who remain are those who support it."

Reporting by Moscow bureau; writing by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber in Geneva; editing by Ken Ferris

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