Politics behind Russia's athletics ban, says Kuznetsova
By Pritha Sarkar
LONDON (Reuters) - Russian tennis player Svetlana Kuznetsova blamed politics for the decision to ban her country's track and field athletes from the Rio Olympics and said it was unfair to group them all together as doping cheats.
Russia's track and field team have been suspended from international competition since November following a World Anti-Doping Agency report and are barred from next month's Games as a punishment for the nation's systematic doping problems.
"This is, for me, politics. Suddenly everything has to go against Russia. In Russia, they're all bad, and all the world is good," said Kuznetsova, one of four Russian tennis players entered for the women's competition in Rio.
Athletics' world governing IAAF had said only some Russian track and field athletes fulfilling exceptional criteria, including repeated drugs testing outside Russia, can take part in the Rio Games under a neutral flag.
The International Olympic Committee, however, said any Russian athlete cleared to compete at the Games would do so under the country's flag.
"I hope they resolve it. And the clean athletes who deserve to go to the Olympics, they will go. For me, I think this is the key," Kuznetsova, who faces holder Serena Williams in the fourth round at Wimbledon on Monday, said at the All England Club.
Russia won 18 medals in track and field -- including eight golds -- in London four years ago.
"For me, it's a little bit funny. There have been too many stories," twice grand slam champion Kuznetsova said of the Russian doping controversy.
"I really hope that all athletes who deserve to be there will go. Not because.... they use something which (they are) not allowed to use.
"If, for example, (pole vaulter Yelena) Isinbayeva didn't use it (doping), she proves it, she can go. That's what I stand for."
Twice Olympic champion Isinbayeva, who has never tested positive for drugs, has applied to the International Association of Athletics Federations to participate at the Games but said she would only compete under Russia's tricolor flag.
(Reporting by Pritha Sarkar, editing by Ken Ferris)