Russian sports officials, stung by charges of widespread performance drug abuse but thrilled by the country’s mounting medal haul at the Tokyo Olympics, are employing the familiar American sports taunt against those who would question their athletes.
Stanislav Pozdnyakov, president of the Russian Olympic Committee, was not in an apologetic mood during a press conference Sunday in Tokyo, telling reporters that continued grumbling about his team is rooted in pure jealousy.
“The cause of accusations is absolutely clear — the successful performance by Russian athletes at these Olympic Games,” the ROC chief said, according to an account by the TASS news agency Sunday.
The “Russian Olympic Committee” team can’t even compete under the national name or hear the national anthem when its athletes win gold in Tokyo because of sweeping sanctions imposed by the World Anti-Doping Agency for the systematic use of performance-enhancing drugs.
Pozdnyakov claimed that many thought — or hoped — Russia’s athletes would not prove competitive in Tokyo.
“Our athletes have proven the opposite by their results,” he said Sunday. “This is the best response to these allegations.”
As of Sunday morning, Russian Olympic Committee athletes were in third place in the national medal race, with 11 golds, 15 silvers and 12 bronze medals. Russia finished fourth in the overall medal race at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games, but was much farther behind China and the United States at the end.
Among the Tokyo highlights: The Russian men’s and women’s gymnastic teams both took home a gold medal, Russian women dominated the fencing competition, and Evgeny Rylov won the 100-meter and 200-meter backstroke events for the first Russian gold medals in swimming in a quarter-century.
Russian officials have been particularly rankled by comments coming from the U.S. team.
U.S. Anti-Doping Agency chief Travis Tygart said in a blunt email to reporters over the weekend that the Russians had no one but themselves to blame for the widespread doubts about their team’s successes in Tokyo.
“The Russian state and sport officials put the dark cloud over themselves and in the process, tragically, pushed their athletes out in the storm,” Tygart wrote. “Now these officials want to continue to lie, deny and attack those with the courage to stand up to their deceit and blatant disregard for the rules and the truth.”
“That’s fine,” he added, “because we all know if you cheat, you have no problem lying about your cheating.”
U.S. swimmer Ryan Murphy also caused a stir after finishing second to Rylov in the 200-meter backstroke final last week, telling reporters afterward that the race “probably wasn’t clean.”
Murphy later congratulated Rylov and said he wasn’t referring to him personally but to the doubts that continue to hang over international swimming. But he only took back part of his critical comments.
“One of the things that’s frustrating is that you can’t answer that question with 100% certainty,” Murphy told reporters after the race. “… I don’t know if it was 100% clean and that’s because of things that have happened in the past.”