At The U.S. Olympic Trials, Mixed Opinions About Russian Doping Scandal : The Torch The Russian scandal is a hot topic at the U.S. track and field Olympic Trials. Some feel individual Russian athletes should be allowed to compete if they're clean, others support a blanket ban.
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At The U.S. Olympic Trials, Mixed Opinions About Russian Doping Scandal

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At The U.S. Olympic Trials, Mixed Opinions About Russian Doping Scandal

At The U.S. Olympic Trials, Mixed Opinions About Russian Doping Scandal

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

There will be a decision soon about whether some Russian track and field athletes can compete in the Olympics next month in Rio. This week, Russia filed an appeal after its track federation was banned because of state-sponsored doping. Despite efforts to stop it, doping is a persistent problem in track and field as NPR's Tom Goldman reports from the U.S. Olympic Trials in Eugene, Ore.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: It didn't take long in Eugene - matter of fact the first day of the trials - a brilliant blue sky day. There was a reminder of the shadow of doping.

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UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Medal ceremony. Shot put men.

GOLDMAN: A medal ceremony is a happy moment. The winner on this day smiled as he stood wearing a victory wreath on his head. But it was bittersweet, coming 12 years late.

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UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Gold medalist and 2004 Olympic champion representing the USA, Adam Nelson.

(APPLAUSE)

GOLDMAN: Adam Nelson won a silver medal in the 2004 Olympic shot put competition. A few years ago, the gold medalist tested positive for a banned drug in retroactive testing, meaning Nelson was the winner. But then one of the most underwhelming victory moments ever - the gold medal was hand delivered to Nelson in 2013 in a food court at the Atlanta airport. Track officials in Eugene thought Nelson deserved better, so did the thousands of fans who cheered him last week at Hayward Field. Not long after those cheers, there were more reminders.

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UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Gatlin and Bromell. Gatlin, Bromell.

GOLDMAN: America's best sprinter proved it again in Eugene. Justin Gatlin won the 100-meter final Sunday in 9.80 seconds. That's a world best time this year. But during the weekend, about 30 people at Hayward Field wore T-shirts with the slogan runners against doping. It was a targeted and quiet protest against Gatlin and fellow sprinter Tyson Gay. Both have served doping suspensions. Thirty-four-year-old Gatlin served two.

Doping is a charged issue for him, but in Eugene, Gatlin was willing to talk about the Russian scandal. I asked him whether some athletes who prove they're clean should be able to go to Rio, even though their track federation is banned.

JUSTIN GATLIN: At the end of the day, I mean, you got to think about fair is fair. You know, if an athlete has come and he's been tested or she's been tested, and they've passed a test, I don't think they should, you know, basically prosecuted or make a statement with other people who have done wrong.

GOLDMAN: Distance runner Stephanie Bruce is sponsored by Oiselle. That's the apparel company that organized the T-shirt protest. For Bruce, the situation is murkier with the Russian athletes who protest their innocence.

STEPHANIE BRUCE: How long have you been running in a culture like that and you don't know that it's going on and you haven't come forward? Like, you are totally oblivious that coaches or - you know what I mean? So that seems strange to me.

GOLDMAN: It's not surprising that Adam Nelson, the man in the belated ceremony, takes a hardest line. He's a long-time anti-doping Fair Play advocate, but he's also a victim of doping. He was quoted as saying this, the reality is you make a ban on a country and then you allow the athletes to compete. It sends a mixed message.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport is expected to decide by July 21 whether individual Russian athletes can compete in Rio. If the decision is no, it will be the first time that country isn't part of the Olympics' most prominent sport - track and field - since the former Soviet Union boycotted the 1984 LA Summer Games. Tom Goldman, NPR News.

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