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NEWS FEATURE Harting eyes more Olympic silverware but is discus underdog this time By Frank Thomas, dpa

Europe
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Robert Harting hopes to medal at the Rio Olympics but after missing the entire 2015 season injured is not the big favourite in the men‘s discus this time around.

Kienbaum, Germany (dpa) - Robert Harting is best known for ripping his shirt to threads in delight over yet another major discus throwing title but it remains to be seen whether he will have reason to celebrate at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

The 31-year-old German ruled the discipline with three straight world titles 2009, 2011 and 2013, plus Olympic gold 2012, but is not the favourite in Brazil coming off a long-term injury.

Harting ruptured the cruciate ligament in his left knee in September 2014 and had to sit out the entire 2015 season before making his return in February at an indoor meet in Berlin.

He has also been hampered by a chest muscle problem and a knee inflammation which forced him to start the outdoor season late.

Harting‘s season-best is a solid 68.04 metres from the national championships, in the final attempt to deny his brother Christoph Harting the title.

In Rio, where the discus final on August 13 is in the unfamiliar lunchtime hours instead of the evening, Harting hopes for a throw of around 68.50m.

"That would be really good," he said Tuesday at a media event at the training centre in Kienbaum. "You can win gold with it but also maybe only bronze."

Harting sees himself as "a chaser" which he considers "very nice" but the top four of the season are separated by only 11cm.

Poland‘s 2015 world champion Piotr Malachowski leads the way with 68.15m, Christoph Harting has 68.06, Robert 68.04 and Jamaica‘s Fedrick Dacres 68.02m.

Despite the self-proclaimed underdog role Harting will be able to rely on his experience from big events and can draw extra energy out his return to the big stage after the missed last year.

"I am looking forward to an international championship like never before," he said, naming the preparations in Kienbaum "the greatest weeks of the year."

But Harting wouldn‘t be Harting without some outspoken remarks on other issues, namely doping.

Harting voiced sharp criticism on International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach after the IOC decided against a blanket ban on Russian athletes despite widespread and state-sponsored doping in the country, according to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

"He is part of the doping system for me, not of the anti-doping system. I feel ashamed for him," Harting said.

Bach hit back at Harting in an interview with dpa Tuesday saying it was an "unacceptable lapse" to "insult someone who is not of the same opinion as you in such a manner" and defended the decision.

Harting also joined the large number of critics of the IOC over their decision to not allow Russian whistleblower Yulia Stepanova to run the 800m in Rio.

"That is not right. She has prevented so much damage for the world of athletics. Her start would have been a slap in the face of Mr Putin. That‘s why it is not happening," Harting said in reference to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"This is all just embarrassing," said Harting who knows Stepanova personally and supports her crowd-funding project to help her continue her career after leaving Russia for a secret location in the United States.

Harting also reiterated has call for an anti-doping fund to finance fully independent doping control, and lamented that many countries still lack a proper anti-doping agency.

"It is difficult to really enjoy the sport. But we are trying all the time to motivate ourselves," Harting said.

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