Journalist Sergey Lisin discovered that five Russian athletes with altered identities are listed as members of the Syrian team at the Arab Games that recently began in Algeria.
In particular, badminton player Darya Dzhedzhula is now listed as Dasha Dhedhula, while her date of birth has been modified from November 19, 1995, to November 19, 1999. Cyclists Tatyana and Darya Malkova are now referred to as Tatia and Darie Malko, respectively. Track and field athlete Karina Poludkina’s name has been shortened to Karina Polud, and swimmer Anastasiya Sorokina is now known as Enas Sorkine.
It is important to note that all these athletes possess Russian citizenship and are officially registered as Russian athletes. Russian authorities claim to have had no knowledge of their involvement in the Arab Games.
Sergey Kovpanets, head coach of the cycling team, expressed astonishment, referring to it as a "venture." He said, "We ourselves are shocked by this information and are currently investigating what transpired." Vladimir Salnikov, President of the Russian Swimming Federation, said that the invitation process was conducted privately, involving individuals lacking necessary authority.
Partially substantiating these claims, the athletes themselves have provided some insights into their participation. They claim to have received commercial offers, with Darya Malkova clarifying that she was invited to Algeria as a sparring partner for local athletes. Allegedly, participation in the actual competition was never discussed.
However, journalists from Sports.ru have uncovered a recruitment advertisement targeting individuals interested in representing the Syrian national team. The recruiter, Ruslan, revealed that athletes were offered the opportunity to undergo training in Syria and subsequently participate in the Arab Games as part of the national team. The Syrian side offered a compensation package, covering transportation and accommodation expenses, and a $5,000 salary for a two-month period. Additionally, a temporary Syrian passport was to be provided. According to Ruslan, the scarcity of available athletes in Syria necessitated this recruitment effort.
"The country is in ruins, with hardly any sports facilities," he said. "Since 2015, they had no time for sports at all."
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