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Olympic Hopefuls From Northwest Say Russian Ban Sends Strong Message

Professional runners from the Northwest say the expulsion of the Russian track and field team from this summer’s Olympic Games sends a strong message about fair play.

Tuesday, the International Olympic Committee will further review Russia’s participation. Late last week, track and field’s world governing body, the International Association of Athletics Federations, barred Russia from the 2016 Olympics based on allegations of systematic doping.

Two-time Olympian Andrew Wheating of Eugene said he feels better knowing that “cheaters” won’t be competing.

“If anything, it puts a really loud ripple out to the rest of the track and field community saying, ‘Hey, if you’re going to cheat, you’re getting banned,’” Wheating said. “I hope that is how it stays for the future. I like the message they’re sending.”

Wheating and other Northwest Olympic hopefuls reacted to the Russian situation at the Brooks PR Invitational track meet in Renton, Washington, over the weekend.

Russia hopes to overturn its team ban in time for the Summer Games in Brazil. President Vladimir Putin told international news agencies Friday that it was grossly “unfair” to impose collective punishment for the misdeeds of an uncertain number of individuals.

The Russian track and field team has long been a powerhouse squad at the Summer Olympics. But in the last couple years a bevy of whistleblowers has revealed evidence of systematic doping of athletes and corruption by national sports officials to cover up positive drug tests.

“I think that I can speak for all athletes when we say we want to compete against other athletes who are clean,” said Katie Mackey, a pro middle distance runner from Seattle. “I think the sport is way more interesting when you have athletes that are clean because they are going to be up and down. There are going to be ebbs and flows. It makes for an exciting race to not have the same person going out there and winning every time.”

The Rio Games run from August 5 - 21.

Now semi-retired, Tom Banse covered national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reported from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events unfolded. Tom's stories can be found online and were heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.