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INTERVIEW Russian swimming star Popov believes risk is high for Olympic ban By Friedemann Kohler, dpa

Europe
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Russian swimming great Alexander Popov believes that Russia‘s sports system in general is not at fault for individual doping cases.

Moscow (dpa) - Russian four-time Olympic swimming gold medallist Alexander Popov says there is a high risk that the country‘s track and field team will be banned from the upcoming Olympics in Rio because of abuse of performance-enhancing drugs.

Popov, 44, who won the men‘s 50-metre and 100-metre freestyle in the 1992 and 1996 Summer Games, is widely considered one of the all-time greatest sprint swimmers and is a member of the International Olympic Committee.

"The risk is high the Russian track and field athletes may not participate in Rio," Popov told dpa in a recent interview.

However, Popov insisted that the problem with performance-enhancing drugs should be considered on an individual basis and not based on the team as a whole.

"What we see now is individual behaviour. But it undermines the reputation of not only the athlete and the coach; it harms the reputation of Russian sports," Popov said.

Russia is awaiting a decision on June 17 regarding its athletes‘ participation in the Rio Olympics in August.

Many athletes from Russia and elsewhere in the former Soviet Union have tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs in recent months, in some cases jeopardizing victories at previous Olympics.

Popov said Russia‘s athletes should know as soon as possible whether they can participate because the psychological pressure could be detrimental to the training.

"These athletes who are training for the Olympics are waiting for a decision. They are being kept between heaven and hell, and that makes the pressure even greater. The sooner the decision is made, the better for the athletes," Popov said.

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