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RUSSIA

German Olympic champion savages ‘pro-doping’ IOC

Olympic discus champion Robert Harting on Tuesday launched a venomous verbal attack on compatriot Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee, for the IOC's stance on state-run Russian doping.

German Olympic champion savages 'pro-doping' IOC
Robert Harting. Photo: DPA

“For me, he is a part of the doping system, not the anti-doping system. I am ashamed of Thomas Bach,” Harting, who has long been a critic of Bach, told SID, an AFP subsidiary.

“Personally, I detest this person more than ever and am very ashamed that I have to work with him indirectly.”

The IOC on Sunday declined to impose a blanket ban on all Russian competitors for the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games after a World Anti-Doping Agency probe found evidence of a wide-ranging cheating system directed from the top.

The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) has banned all Russian competitors from the athletic's section of the Rio Games, something Harting welcomes as “the correct action. This may be a wake-up call.”

But with less than two weeks before the Games start, the IOC has controversially left the decision whether to ban Russian athletes from the other Olympic disciplines down to the individual sports federations.

Bach defended the IOC's decision saying it “respects the right of every clean athlete around the world” — something Harting passionately rejects.

The 31-year-old, who won the discus gold at London 2012 and three straight world titles from 2009 to 2013, says he has “no interest in feeling the pain” of any clean Russian athletes.

Harting says the IOC's decision is a setback in the battle to drive doping from sport and says he “can't understand the decision” which he finds “simply embarrassing”.

Harting, who will be bidding to defend his Olympic title despite tearing a chest muscle and suffering an inflamed right knee at the start of the year, says under Bach's presidency, the IOC has “reached a new level of disappointment”.

'Unacceptable insult'

Harting is also disappointed that an IOC ethics commission opted not to allow whistle-blower Yuliya Stepanova, the Russian 800-metre runner who lifted the lid on systematic doping fraud in her country, to compete in Rio as a neutral.

The IOC president hit back at the criticism from his compatriot.

“It is unacceptable to insult somebody for not having the same opinion as you,” Bach told German media agency DPA.

“All who argue in such a way should consider that many others agreed to this decision. The Continental Olympic Associations, athletes commissions; the Executive Board decided unanimously with one abstention. There are different opinions. This has to be respected and this can be discussed. But it is unacceptable to insult somebody in such a way.”

Harting is not the only German annoyed with Bach.

In protest at the IOC decision, Hans Wilhelm Gaeb, the 80-year-old former president of the German Table Tennis Association, says he will give back the Olympic Order, which was awarded to him in 2006 by Bach.

“I think the decision is the severest blow to the integrity of sport and the Olympic principles,” Gaeb said in a statement to SID.

“I don't want to wear the recognition of an organisation which betrays the ideals of sport.”

Gaeb branded the IOC's decision not to allow Stepanova to run in Rio as a “shameless act and a unique tribute to power politics”.

RUSSIA

Germany arrests Russian scientist for spying for Moscow

German police arrested a Russian scientist working at an unidentified university, accusing him of spying for Moscow, prosecutors said on Monday, in a case that risks further inflaming bilateral tensions.

Germany arrests Russian scientist for spying for Moscow
Vladimir Putin. Photo: dpa/AP | Patrick Semansky

Federal prosecutors said in a statement that the suspect, identified only as Ilnur N., had been taken into custody on Friday on suspicion of “working for a Russian secret service since early October 2020 at the latest”.

Ilnur N. was employed until the time of his arrest as a research assistant for a natural sciences and technology department at the unnamed German university.

German investigators believe he met at least three times with a member of Russian intelligence between October 2020 and this month. On two occasions he allegedly “passed on information from the university’s domain”.

He is suspected of accepting cash in exchange for his services.

German authorities searched his home and workplace in the course of the arrest.

The suspect appeared before a judge on Saturday who remanded him in custody.

‘Completely unacceptable’

Neither the German nor the Russian government made any immediate comment on the case.

However Moscow is at loggerheads with a number of Western capitals after a Russian troop build-up on Ukraine’s borders and a series of espionage scandals that have resulted in diplomatic expulsions.

Italy this month said it had created a national cybersecurity agency following warnings by Prime Minister Mario Draghi that Europe needed to
protect itself from Russian “interference”. 

The move came after an Italian navy captain was caught red-handed by police while selling confidential military documents leaked from his computer to a Russian embassy official.

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The leaders of nine eastern European nations last month condemned what they termed Russian “aggressive acts” citing operations in Ukraine and “sabotage” allegedly targeted at the Czech Republic.

Several central and eastern European countries have expelled Russian diplomats in solidarity with Prague but Russia has branded accusations of its involvement as “absurd” and responded with tit-for-tat expulsions.

The latest espionage case also comes at a time of highly strained relations between Russia and Germany on a number of fronts including the ongoing detention of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, who received treatment in Berlin after a near-fatal poisoning.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government has moreover worked to maintain a sanctions regime over Moscow’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula, the scene of ongoing fighting between pro-Russia separatists and local forces.

And Germany has repeatedly accused Russia of cyberattacks on its soil.

The most high-profile incident blamed on Russian hackers to date was a cyberattack in 2015 that completely paralysed the computer network of the Bundestag lower house of parliament, forcing the entire institution offline for days while it was fixed.

German prosecutors in February filed espionage charges against a German man suspected of having passed the floor plans of parliament to Russian secret services in 2017.

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas last week said Germany was expecting to be the target of Russian disinformation in the run-up to its general election in September, calling it “completely unacceptable”.

Russia denies being behind such activities.

Despite international criticism, Berlin has forged ahead with plans to finish the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, set to double natural gas supplies from Russia to Germany.

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