18/06/2016 7:00 AM AEST | Updated 18/06/2016 7:03 AM AEST

Russia Cries Foul Over 'Unprecedented' Olympic Ban

Grigory Dukor / Reuters
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a news conference after a meeting with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum 2016 in St. Petersburg, Russia, June 17, 2016.

Russia claimed the IAAF’s decision to continue its ban of Russian athletics on Friday was unfair and threatened legal action, while the rest of the world welcomed the move and urged the IOC not to go against it.

"We are extremely disappointed by the IAAF’s decision, creating the unprecedented situation of a whole nation’s track and field athletes being banned from the Olympics," said the Russian ministry of sport.

"Clean athletes' dreams are being destroyed because of the reprehensible behavior of other athletes and officials.

"We now appeal to the members of the International Olympic Committee to not only consider the impact that our athletes’ exclusion will have on their dreams and the people of Russia, but also that the Olympics themselves will be diminished by their absence."

The IAAF voted unanimously to uphold its ban on Russia for systematic doping, saying the country had not made enough progress on reforms to dispel concerns of state-sponsored drug abuse.

The Russian athletics federation blamed the media, saying: “The pressure which we experienced in the last few days ahead of the council meeting, when every day we had some kind of interview or publications, which as a rule had negative connotations, doubtlessly influenced the decision.”

Yelena Isinbayeva, who had hoped to seek a third Olympic pole vault gold in Rio and who is one of Russia’s most prominent athletes, described it as a violation of human rights.

“I will not be quiet, I will take steps. I will go to the human rights court. I will prove to the IAAF and WADA that they made the wrong decision,” she said, referring to the World Anti-Doping Agency.

A Kremlin spokesman, speaking hours before the ban was extended, said: “Everything possible needed to defend the rights of our athletes and the Olympic team is being done and will be done at a legal level."

The IOC merely “took note” of the decision but said it would discuss the situation in a telephone conference on Saturday.

The United States Olympic Committee described it as a step in the right direction.

“It gives a measure of hope to clean athletes that there are consequences not only for athletes who dope, but for countries which do not engage seriously in the fight against doping,” it said.

Stephanie Hightower, president of US Track and Field and an IAAF Council member, said it was “the only proper course of action given the compelling and powerful evidence presented to Council.

“We do not believe that every Russian athlete cheated, and it is unfortunate and regrettable that some may pay a penalty for the serious transgressions of their federation."

There was some sympathy elsewhere too for innocent Russian athletes, with American Olympic decathlon silver medalist Trey Hardee saying: “Sad day for Russian athletes. The people in charge should be punished, they created the culture of dope”.

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