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Belarus rowing team disqualified from Rio Olympics

This week sad and at the same time scandalous news came from the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Lausanne. The men's canoe team of Belarus has been banned from the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

The National Olympic Committee of Belarus is outraged by this decision. The International Canoe Federation has proof that Belarusians used illicit substances during a training camp in France. The French Anti-Doping Agency is investigating the affair. The Ministry of Sport and Tourism of Belarus said that it will require compensation for moral and material damage.

They conquered Beijing. They brought Belarus a gold and a bronze medal. In London, they won two silvers. 

The Belarusian rowing school is one of the strongest on the planet. Belarusians climbed on the Olympic podium 18 times. And it is during the 25-year history of independent Belarus alone. In the USSR team, our athletes were also the best, with 13 medals. Among which 11 are gold.

However, the glaring injustice has thrown overboard seven strongest athletes. The men's team will miss the Rio Olympics 2016.

Alexander Bogdanovich, rowing and canoeing Olympic champion:
When the letter arrived, we did not know what they can bring against us, we thought there might be some violations we don't know about.

The roots of the scandal lead to Paris. In April, at a training camp in Franc, officers of an internal anti-doping laboratory searched the Belarusian rowing and canoeing team. It was a surprise visit. They said that earlier meldonium had been found in the system of some athletes. For reference, this drug is banned in France. Its importation is punishable. However, this search is not successful. Nothing has been found in the men's team premises. The coach of the women's team, however, had 16 mildronate pills. But they were officially prescribed and were intended only for personal use. It seemed that that was the end of any claims. But the International Canoe Federation used this fact as a reason for a ban.

Andrei Bogdanovich, rowing and canoeing Olympic champion:
This is pure politics.  Sport is about winning a medal and having no one else interfering. Yes, we passed doping tests, of course, 10 times a year, but previously, no one complained.

And now we see some guesswork and they are banning the entire team.     

On the night of July 16, the Belarusian team was accused of doping. Our team was disqualified despite the fact that meldonium concentration in blood did not exceed the permissible norms. The country rushed to protect their athletes. The Belarusian side immediately prepared a package of necessary documents for the benefit of "clean" athletes.

The evidence was sent to the International Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne on 18 July. After four days, the answer was that disqualification would last for a year.  It is also impossible to suspend the proceedings for the time of the Olympics. The reason is that the International Canoe Federation has already reallocated quotas.

Simply put, athletes from other countries have taken the seven available "seats".

Alexander Bogdanovich, rowing and canoeing Olympic champion:
There were countries who did not have a license to participate in the Olympic Games. And, maybe, they took this opportunity to get a spot at the Rio Olympics.

Alexander Shamko, Minister of Sport and Tourism of the Republic of Belarus: International sports officials apparently were in a stupor because of the successful performance of the Belarusian national team at the European Championship, where Belarus won 10 medals. Of these, four medals were in the Olympic qualification.

Meldonium became a banned substance in January 2016. At its core, mildronate pills only affect the heart muscle. Simply put, a person does not become faster, higher or stronger thanks to this substance.

Evgeny Akimov, physician and clinical pharmacologist, Belarus:
This is, by and large, a drug that allows protecting an athlete's cardiovascular system from excessive exercise, but it can't improve the performance of an athlete.

The CAS also upheld a claim for disqualification of the Russian athletics team. These are 67 athletes. The reason is the same - doping. But in the Russian case the doping was really found.  But not all athletes had doping. Despite this fact, the entire team was disqualified.

Vitaly Mutko, Minister of Sports of the Russian Federation:
In my opinion, this decision absolutely violates the rights of clean athletes and creates a precedent of collective responsibility.

The Olympic Games in Rio have already gone down in history as one of the most controversial.

Dmitry Guberniev, TV presenter, sports commentator (Russia):
The absence of the Belarusian rowing and canoeing team, a very strong team is a definitive loss. For me as a rowing commentator and a sport lover. And I think that sports fans around the world share my opinion.

Because the Belarusian team has proved its worth.

Belarus will continue to fight for the rights of our athletes. Athletes are to miss the Olympics but they don't have to miss the entire season. Lawyers will challenge the decision of the International Canoe Federation in Lausanne.   

National Olympic Committee building, Belarus