Olympic legend criticises IOC during Harrogate visit

Olympic rowing legend Sir Matthew Pinsent.
Olympic rowing legend Sir Matthew Pinsent.
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Olympic rowing legend Sir Matthew Pinsent has criticised the IOC during a visit to Harrogate.

The four times gold medalist said the International Olympic Committee's had "bottled it" by not banning the entire Russian sports squad from the forthcoming Rio Olympics after recent doping scandals.

Speaking after officially opening a new business Spirit of Harrogate which produces Slingsby Artisan Gin, he said he had some sympathy for the position the IOC found itself in after the Russian's state-sponsored doping scandal had been revealed.

But Pinsent, who formed such a formidable sporting partnership with fellow rower Sir Steve Redgrave and won four consecutive golds in the Olympics between 1992 and 2004, said: "There are some strong people among the 130 or so members but the committee itself has bottled it."

Pinsent, 45, said the IOC's decision to ban the Russian track and field athletes but to delegate the decision in other categories to the 28 federations that govern summer Olympic sports to decide which Russians could compete in Rio next month showed their lack of desire to confront Russian President Putin.

Answering questions from invited guests at Spirit of Harrogate, he also went to tell the small audience at this award-winning gin bar and retailer which numbers Harrods among its major customers that he could understand why the IOC had decided to compromise in this way.

He said: "The Olympics nearly folded after the West boycotted the Moscow Olympics and the Russians boycotted LA in 1984.

"People were asking what the point of the Olympics was if half the world wasn't taking part in them. They could have ended. They only got back on track after sprinter Ben Johnson was disqualified at Seoul in 1988 after failing a doping test.

"No one wanted that situation to happen again."

And he told the audience at Spirit of Harrogate he had sympathy for Yuliya Stepanova, the Russian 800m runner who had exposed her nation's doping record and who was 'clean' herself but would not be allowed to take part in Rio.