Zakarin may ride Olympic Games as independent athlete

Russian looking for road to Rio after IOC ban

Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha) may look at riding the Rio Olympic Games as an independent athlete, Cyclingnews understands. Zakarin was barred from competing in Rio after a decision by the IOC Executive Board (IOC EB) to ban the Russian Olympic Committee from entering athletes who had served doping bans.

The decision comes after the publication of the McLaren report, which looked into state-sanctioned doping, earlier this week.

Zakarin, who won stage 17 of the Tour de France to Finhaut-Emosson, was handed a two-year suspension in 2009 following a positive test for the steroid methandienone and therefore is included in the IOC's Rio ban.

Russian sport has been embroiled in controversy after multiple claims that doping was widespread in the country and that the state had helped to facilitate and cover it up. WADA hired Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren to look into the claims. The final report was damning and said that the Russian Sports Ministry had helped to manipulate samples that contained banned substances. In light of the report, the IOC launched its own investigation, the results of which were announced on Sunday afternoon.

Athletes are allowed to compete as independent athletes for various reasons including international sanctions against their country. The IOC ban does not prohibit Russian athletes who have served bans from trying to take this route, but admission as an independent will be on a strict case by case basis.

In order to gain entry, Russian athletes must prove that any anti-doping controls have been undertaken in countries that adhere to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) code. Moscow's only WADA accredited lab had its accreditation revoked after it was revealed to be involved with the cover-ups.

Katusha reiterated to Cyclingnews at the Tour de France finish in Paris that Zakarin had undergone 12 out-of-competition tests this season and that all of them had been done by WADA accredited laboratories.

There could be other routes to the Olympic Games for Zakarin, but that depends on the UCI's response to the ban. The UCI have refused to comment on the matter until they have had analysed the IOC EB's decision fully. If the governing body chooses to uphold the ban, Cyclingnews understands that Zakarin could also go to CAS to appeal it. CAS has overturned Olympic bans in the past, such as David Millar's, saying that they violated both the Olympic charter and the WADA code.

Time is of the essence for Zakarin if he hopes to compete in Rio, with the road race in just two weeks' time.

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