World basketball’s governing body, FIBA, and the IOC are yet to rule on whether Russia, ranked ninth in the world, will be allowed to compete for a place at the Tokyo Games.
Boomers centre Andrew Bogut said he was strongly against drugs in sport but was concerned a team could be banned even if some members were based in professional clubs outside Russia.
“It’s pretty harsh on those blokes, you feel for them,” Bogut said.
“It will be interesting to see whether the team sports appeal and get off. But on the other hand I’m strongly against drugs in sport and performance enhancing drugs.
“If that wakes up the world and stops federations being involved in drug cheating and lets them know that some innocent people will be affected by it, then that might be the collateral damage you need to wake up people and say we are not tolerating this.”
Russia is still listed in a six-team Olympic qualifying tournament in Croatia in February but that draw was completed before the WADA ban. The Russian women’s team was eliminated in European qualifying.
Russian president Vladimir Putin had signalled his country could appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Under the ban Russian colours, flags and national anthem won’t appear at major events like the Olympics and world championships.
Former Australian Boomers forward Chris Anstey played in Russia for three seasons and said rumours had swirled for years about the country.
“You see enough and you hear enough that, I guess, technology gets better and screening processes get better then things catch up on people,” Anstey said.
“One thing you know about old school Russia is that they’ve done it their way, thumbed their nose a little bit to what others do, but people eventually catch up.”
Anstey added that having a team that didn’t represent a country would take away from the experience.
“Isn’t that the point? To represent your country,” Anstey said.
“It’s not just a basketball tournament. I wouldn’t know what it would be like from the other side either playing for your country against someone in a black [neutral] uniform.
“I think that would be disappointing for the other team as well.”
Australian legend Andrew Gaze said he felt for clean athletes but could see cheating has occurred.
“I have great sympathy for any athletes that were not involved with the administration and the way in which they completely cheated – there is no other way to describe it,” Gaze said.
“They’ve got to prove their innocence when usually someone needs to prove their guilt.”
Gaze was part of the Boomers team in the 1992 Olympics who played against the former Soviet Union team under the “Commonwealth of Independent States” banner.
Lithuania had already declared independence from the Soviet Union and beat their former teammates in the bronze medal game.
The Boomers faced the Soviet Union several times in the 1980s as they toured Australia.
“It did feel a little different but it was more you had great compassion for the difficulties they were facing in their former nation,” Gaze said.
“In that Olympic spirit of friendship and other values, they kick in and some of the challenges these individuals were facing on the home front were hard to ignore.”
Roy Ward is a Sports writer for The Age.