A maelstrom brews in Russia. World record holder Yelena Soboleva starts to push back on the accusations that she manipulated a urine doping sample. The Russians are hitting back with a Stallone cliche of 'First Blood' Here goes Reuters:
Yelena Soboleva denied on Friday she had manipulated her doping samples after the world indoor 1,500 meters champion and six other leading Russian women athletes were banned ahead of the Beijing Olympics.
"I call what is happening now a provocation staged deliberately to knock out the potential medalists right before the Olympics," Kommersant business daily quoted Soboleva as saying.
"All of us had the best chances to win medals in Beijing. I stress once again that I reject the accusations brought against me by the IAAF (athletics' world governing body).
"I also ask my fans to forgive me for being charged with what I am actually not guilty of.
Russian newspapers take aim at the IAAF too:
Russian newspapers said the bans appeared to be a foreign plot to deprive the national team of at least five golds in Beijing. The Games start on August 8.
"Five of our golds have already been flushed down the drain," daily Izvestia said.
The seven banned are: twice world 1,500 meters champion Tatyana Tomashova, Soboleva, distance runners Yuliya Fomenko and Svetlana Cherkasova, European discus champion Darya Pishchalnikova, former hammer world record holder Gulfia Khanafeyeva and former world 5,000 meters champion Olga Yegorova. All except Cherkasova had qualified for the Olympics.
The athletes were charged with fraudulently substituting urine during the doping control process, and suspended by the IAAF. The Russian media alleged the athletes' samples had been manipulated by a western company.
How good is Soboleva? Here are the world's best times this year, and the US best times:
800 1:59.82 (twice) H. Clark (Nike) 1500 4:00.33 S. Rowbury (Nike) Mile 4:27.18i C. Wurth-Thomas (Nike)
|800||1:54.85 Y. Soboleva (Rus)|
|1500||3:56.59 Y. Soboleva (Rus)|
|Mile||4:20.21i Y. Soboleva (Rus)|
Does 'blow away the competition' describe the superwoman?
Read more about the Great Russian Push Back of 2008 after the jump, as Sylvester Stallone rushes to Moscow.
The Olympics: First Blood,' seethed one Russian headline on Friday as the country absorbed the blow of seeing its top five female athletes suspended from the Beijing Olympics for failing doping tests.
Ripe with the devastated accents of athletes and coaches alike, the Russian press was not immune from suggesting that the timing of the suspension, if not the actual results of the test, was politically motivated.
'A delayed-action doping bomb has exploded the Russian track and field team,' popular daily Moskovsky Komsomolets led its pages Friday.
The international governing body for track and field (IAAF) announced the suspension on Thursday of a total of seven female athletes for 'a fraudulent substitution of urine' in doping tests from 2007.
Elena Soboleva, one of those accused, set a world record in the 1,500-metre race at this year's world indoor championships, and four other Olympic team stars - Darya Pishchalnikova, Gulfia Khanafeyeva, Tatyana Tomashova and Yulia Fomenko - were considered top medal contenders at the Beijing Games.
'You can't imagine what a humiliation this is. We have been martyred by the procedures,' Soboleva told Sovietsky Sport newspaper in an interview headed, 'The Ground has been Pulled from Under Her Feet.'
'I am sure this is a provocation,' Soboleva remonstrated. 'They are just afraid of us. It's not a secret to anyone that we were medal contenders. And I was, personally, a favorite for gold. I've worked toward this for so many years, and now it's all down the drain.'
There are serious questions here:
'Some very troubling questions still have to be asked,' Nikolai Durmanov, head of the Russian Olympic Committee anti-doping department, said in televised comments. 'Most importantly, why are last year's doping tests suddenly emerging as an issue one week before the start of the games?'
Business daily Kommersant appraised the situation: 'The extent of the scandal could be comparable only to the loss of the US squad before the Athens Olympics, but there is a crucial difference: Formally, none of the girls has been caught using doping drugs or been involved in distributing them.'