Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha) chose to go alone up the final climb to the finish. Photo: Gruber Images

Blocked from Rio Games, Zakarin heading to Clasica San Sebastian instead

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Tour de France stage winner Ilnur Zakarin is one of a number of Russians who have been prevented from competing in the Olympic Games, with the Katusha rider being removed from a plane which was about to take off for Rio on Thursday evening.

According to, his coach Gumar Zakarievich said that he was taken off the plane at the last moment and that he would instead compete in the Clasica San Sebastian on Saturday.

The Olympics had long been a goal for him, but his participation was made all-but-impossible by a decision by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to block those with previous doping violations. Zakarin was suspended seven years ago due to a positive test for the substance methandienone. His ban lasted two years.

The Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) has been under pressure after German broadcaster ARD and others helped prove that there had been a state-run doping programme in place for many years. As a result of this Russian track and field athletes have been blocked from competing in Rio by the IOC.

The IOC however rejected WADA’s request to block all Russian competitors from the Games, saying that individual federations would have to make the call on that.

On Thursday the UCI said that it would allow 11 Russians to compete in Rio.

A total of six others would be blocked. These are Zakarin, 2012 bronze medallist Olga Zabelinskaya and Sergey Shilov. The other three are riders who were potentially implicated in doping. The UCI said that the Cycling Anti-Doping Foundation (CADF) and WADA were in contact in order to enable cases to be opened as soon as possible.

Russian news agency TASS named two of those on Friday.

It identified them as Kirill Sveshnikov and Dmitry Sokolov, and said that they had been identified via a letter sent by their coach Alexander Kuznetsov to Thomas Bach, the head of the International Olympic Committee.

Kuznetsov was indignant, according to TASS, and said that their banning was illegal as they were not involved in doping scandals.

“The shock from the information received overnight on July 29 was tremendous,” he stated, according to TASS. “According to it, Sokolov and Sveshnikov (which basically means the entire cycle racing team) have been barred from the Rio Olympic Games, since their names are mentioned in Mr. McLaren’s report.”

Nonetheless, the coach noted that banning these athletes from the Olympics is illegal, since they are not involved in doping scandals.

Depending on the outcome of the CADF investigation, this latter point may prove to be inaccurate.

The Rio Olympics will begin on August 5 in Brazil.

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