Russian President Vladimir Putin: “The other sportsmen understand that the quality of their medals will be different.”
British athletes have been told that Olympic medals won in Rio will be devalued by the absence of Russian competitors.
The claim was made by Russian president Vladimir Putin at a send-off for his decimated Brazil-bound team in Moscow yesterday.
More than 100 have so far been barred from competing in the purge on drug cheats which has followed damning evidence of state-sponsored doping in Russia.
Putin claimed the Games would be “less of a spectacle” as a result of a “deliberate campaign targeting our athletes”.
And he insisted: “The other sportsmen understand that the quality of their medals will be different.”
Rowing and track and field have acted most decisively against Russia with 22 rowers banned and all but one of the 68 track and field stars.
At the Kremlin reception Putin further cranked up the emotion by inviting two-time Olympic pole vault champion Yelena Isinbayeva to address the team.
“Show them what you’re able to do!” she implored, fighting back the tears. “For yourself and for us too. We are one team, one big world power. This situation should unify us.
“Compete so the whole world shudders and the hymn of the Russian Federation sounded in the sports arenas of Rio without stopping.
“You can do it, we believe in you, don’t let yourselves be destabilised, don’t let yourselves be pressured. Walk with your head held high and proud so that all these pseudo-clean foreign athletes understand they didn’t attack the right people.”
Sympathy was in short supply from British rowing great James Cracknell who, referring to his own sport, tweeted: “Only six Russians left – they get a room each!”