Russian Ambassador Defends Athletes Over Doping Speculation

Russia's ambassador to the United States has rejected claims that athletes from his country had cheated their way to the podium at the Tokyo Olympics.

Anatoly Antonov took aim at those who were casting aspersions on the achievements of sportspeople from his country, which faces criticism over its very presence at the games.

Although the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) sanctioned Russia for a state-sponsored doping program, athletes from the country not banned for drug offences can compete under the banner of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC), albeit without a flag or national anthem

The controversy of ROC athletes competing raised its head again on Friday when U.S. swimmer Ryan Murphy, who came second in the 200m backstroke final to Russian Evgeny Rylov, said that he lost in a race "that's probably not clean".

Murphy later clarified he did not intend to impugn Rylov in particular and was only making a general point about doping in his sport, Reuters reported.

However, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency CEO Travis Tygart, weighed into the debate, dubbing the punishment Russia had faced for doping offences as a "farce."

But Antonov hit back at doping claims leveled at Russian athletes, telling reporters: "These unsubstantiated speculations are bewildering."

"Attempts to discredit their achievements are driven by a desire to get rid of fair competition which goes against the spirit of the Olympic movement," Antonov said, "you have to lose with dignity."

According to a transcript on the embassy's Facebook page, Antonov added that "Russians are among the most tested athletes at these competitions" and they had won medals in Tokyo "in a fair fight."

He went on to say that doping "is a worldwide problem" and the U.S. "can also play an important role" in its solution.

"We are delighted with the achievements of our athletes," he said. "Under difficult conditions, they are ably defending the sporting honor of the Motherland."

Antonov's defence of Russian Olympic athletes came as the ROC issued a bullish statement in response to the criticism which it put down to the fact that its victories were "unnerving" for its rivals.

"Yes, we are here at the Olympics whether you like it or not," the ROC tweeted, adding that "you have to be able to lose."

For his part, Tygart, told Yahoo! in a statement "all are presumed innocent unless and until proven otherwise."

But he did condemn the decision to allow Russian participation, describing the ban as, "barely a 'rebrand'" which he said, "will do nothing to stop the corruption in Russia and likely will embolden others willing to win by any means."

Russia's (ROC) delegation
Russia's (ROC) delegation at the opening ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games on July 23, 2021. Russia's envoy to the U.S. has hit back at doping claims levelled at the Russian team. BEN STANSALL/Getty