Gazprom-RusVelo’s Alexey Kurbatov will replace Ilnur Zakarin in the Russian team for the men’s road race at the Olympic Games in Rio. Kurbatov, who only turned professional this season, will join Sergey Chernetskiy and Pavel Kochetkov in the Russian line-up.
Russian sport has been embroiled in a lengthy scandal after state-sponsored doping was uncovered. In response to the recent McLaren report, which was launched as a result of the scandal, the IOC chose to ban all Russian athletes with previous doping infractions but left it to the individual sport’s governing bodies to decide whether or not to comply with the ruling.
Despite this, Zakarin had been confident of competing and indicated his intentions to try and compete as an independent athlete. He had been due to fly out to Rio earlier this week but had been pulled from the flight ‘at the last minute’ when the UCI opted to uphold the IOC’s decision.
In the latest twist in the tale, just hours before the opening ceremony, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) overturned the IOC’s decision, calling it "unenforceable" and saying that it "does not respect the athletes' right of natural justice". In practice, this opened the door for Zakarin and 2012 bronze medallist Olga Zabelinskaya to compete. However, it came too late and with Zakarin on the other side of the world he is unable to travel to Rio in time for the race. It is not yet clear if Zabelinskaya will be able to make it to Rio for the women’s road race on Sunday.
The CAS ruling also came too late for Russia’s team pursuit squad, who lost three riders to the scandal. The Russians lost their appeal and their place in the team pursuit competition was handed to Italy, who finished fourth at the World Championships in London earlier this year.