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Russia says final decision on Olympic ban expected Sunday

Russia’s top Olympic official expects a final decision by Sunday on whether the entire Russian team will be banned from next month’s games in Rio de Janeiro over allegations of state-sponsored doping.

The International Olympic Committee is examining the legal options of a blanket ban following a report by World Anti-Doping Agency investigator Richard McLaren that accused Russia’s sports ministry of overseeing doping of the country’s Olympic athletes.

“The issue will be finally resolved by the end of this week, probably on Sunday,” Russian Olympic Committee president Alexander Zhukov said Wednesday at a meeting of the ROC.

Zhukov said his committee did not discuss the McLaren report at its meeting, although he also did not rule out legal action if Russia is hit with a total ban from the games.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport will issue its verdict Thursday on Russia’s appeal to overturn the IAAF ban on its track and field athletes for the games. The IOC will take that ruling into account before making its own decision.

Zhukov said he was hopeful of winning the appeal, adding that Russia’s plans for the Olympics assumed the track and field team would be allowed to compete. Russia plans to send a total of 387 athletes, including 68 in track and field, he said.

“Of course we hope for a CAS ruling in our favor,” Zhukov told state TV. “It would be, I’d say, a serious precedent for the other federations’ decisions.”

Regardless of how the various doping-related cases turn out, Zhukov said a Russian Olympic boycott was out of the question.

“These boycotts just lead to a breakup of the Olympic movement,” he said. “I think that Russia will never take part in any boycott.”

The Soviet Union boycotted the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, retaliating for the U.S.-led boycott of the 1980 Games in Moscow that followed the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

Earlier Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman said a meeting between Putin and Russia’s Olympic athletes, previously scheduled for Thursday, would no longer take place.

The IOC executive board held a meeting by teleconference on Tuesday to consider its steps in the wake of the McLaren report, which found that 28 summer and winter Olympic sports were affected by state-operated cheating in Russia.

WADA and other anti-doping officials urged the IOC to consider the unprecedented step of excluding the entire Russian team from the Rio Games.

The IOC said it “will explore the legal options with regard to a collective ban of all Russian athletes for the Olympic Games 2016 versus the right to individual justice.”

The IOC also started disciplinary action against Russian sports ministry officials and others implicated in McLaren’s report, and said they would be denied accreditation for the Rio Games. The list includes Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko.

The IOC is expected to hold another executive board meeting in the next few days, possibly on Sunday, to consider whether to ban the Russian team.

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