Usmanov urges IOC not to ban clean Russian athletes

Arsenal shareholder Alisher Usmanov has urged the International Olympics Committee not to ban clean Russian athletes from the Olympics.

The 62-year-old is also president of the International Fencing Federation and has written to IOC president Thomas Bach to plead for leniency ahead of next month’s Games in Rio.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport earlier this week upheld the decision of athletics’ world governing body the IAAF to ban Russian athletes from the Rio Olympics due to widespread doping violations.

An investigation commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency says Russia’s sports ministry “directed, controlled and oversaw” manipulation of athletes’ urine samples.

Russia lost its Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) appeal on Thursday against an Olympic ban on its track and field athletes, putting pressure on the IOC to issue a blanket ban.

The fate of their Olympic team could be determined on Sunday, when the IOC’s executive board meets, and Usmanov, who owns a 30 per cent stake in Arsenal, wants clean athletes to be spared.

“I am convinced that clean athletes who have dedicated their lives to participating in the Olympic Games should not be disqualified, even if the guilt of sports officials is proven,” he wrote in an open letter.

“There has been an indication of violations by officials but nobody has been proven guilty. Why then are innocent athletes being punished? You have fought in the past for the right to participate in the Olympic Games and stated that boycotts could have been avoided if the IOC and world leaders had listened to the athletes.

“The International Fencing Federation (FIE) strictly abides all rules of anti-doping. FIE has carried out independent, authoritative and efficient doping control on all Russian fencers during the 2016 European Fencing Championships. Starting in 2014, FIE tested Russian fencers in 35 different countries.”

Press Association Sport