GRATEFUL EIGHT: The Australian women's eight rowing team in action at the 2012 London Olympics.
GRATEFUL EIGHT: The Australian women's eight rowing team in action at the 2012 London Olympics. Harry How

Stroke of luck for Aussie rowers after Russians banned

ROWING: Russia's pain was Australia's gain late on Monday night when a place in the women's eight competition at the Rio Olympics suddenly became available.

Following the complete Rio ban imposed on Russia's athletics team over state-sponsored systemic doping, the International Rowing Federation (FISA) ruled that only six of that country's 28-member rowing team would be able to compete at the Games.

As first reserve the Australia eight was in, after narrowly failing to qualify in late May.

Rowing Australia chairman Rob Scott said the sport had a longstanding history of leadership in world anti-doping practices.

He praised FISA for responding swiftly to the International Olympic Committee's weekend decision to allow the ruling bodies of individual sports to decide on Russian participation in Rio.

"RA has always been committed to clean and fair competition and we commend FISA on their strong action in response to the recent findings of the McLaren Report (on Russian doping)," he said.

"We are thrilled that our women's eight will be able to be nominated to the Olympic team for Rio.

"The decision ... is an incredible boost for Australian women's sweep rowing and women's rowing in general.

"To have more women being given the opportunity to compete at the pinnacle level of their sport will provide the inspiration for others to follow in their footsteps."

Russian officials were predictably disappointed.

"This is a humiliation," Russian rowing federation president Veniamin But told the R-Sport agency.

"I am in shock, but we won't stop the battle. Our Olympic committee is holding discussions with the IOC on our behalf."

Aside from the ban on Russia's 67-member track and field team, at least 40 of its athletes have been banned from Rio since the weekend, including seven swimmers, two modern pentathletes, two weightlifters and a volleyballer.

Russia originally named a team of 387 members.

Having qualified five boats for Rio, Russia will compete with only one - a men's coxless four.


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