HITTING BACK: Russian President Vladimir Putin.
HITTING BACK: Russian President Vladimir Putin. Mikhail Klimentyev

Putin says Russian bans devalue Games

ATHLETICS: With more of his athletes being banned from the Rio Olympics each day, Russian President Vladimir Putin has dismissed the furore around his country's state-backed, systemic doping program.

In an address to the Russian team in the Kremlin, Mr Putin insisted "no concrete, evidence-based accusations” had been brought against Russia's athletes.

He described the ban on Russia's track and field athletes as "discrimination” and said it represented a "political campaign” against Russian sportspeople.

"The targeted campaign our athletes became the victim of included notorious double standards, a principle of collective responsibility and a cancellation of the presumption of innocence, which are incompatible with sport, or with justice - elementary legal norms,” he said.

Russia had named a team of 387, but last week the International Olympic Committee upheld a ban on the country's 68 track and field athletes, and gave the ruling federations of other sports the responsibility of deciding which Russian competitors could participate in the Games.

By yesterday, the number of Russian athletes banned from Rio had grown to 108, with more expected.

Mr Putin said the Games would be "less of a spectacle” without the Russian athletes.

"The other sportsmen understand that the quality of their medals will be different,” he told the Russian team.

Russia's fencing, volleyball and triathlon teams have been cleared to compete at Rio.