By Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber
MOSCOW (Reuters) – Several members of Russia’s national boxing team have posted online pictures or videos that appear to show them flouting self-isolation rules imposed to slow the spread of the coronavirus, social media posts reviewed by Reuters show.
The Russian national boxing team returned home last week after an Olympic qualification tournament in London was halted on March 16 because of the rapidly spreading virus.
Two Turkish boxers and one coach tested positive for the coronavirus after returning home from the event.
All Russians coming back from abroad must self-isolate for two weeks, barring them from attending work and school, and minimize their presence in public places.
But several national team boxers documenting their daily lives on social media either posted images of themselves, or were identified in pictures and videos, taken at training facilities or in public.
In one case, Gabil Mamedov, who competes in the men’s lightweight class, on Monday posted a video of himself on Instagram at a boxing club in Orenburg, 1,230 km (760 miles) southeast of Moscow.
He is sitting on the edge of a boxing ring, where five people are training, and there are other individuals visible in the background.
It was accompanied with a hashtag in Russian saying “We are quarantining” and showed him encouraging followers not to despair during the coronavirus outbreak.
“Don’t be upset, don’t worry. Together we will beat the virus. Practise boxing,” Mamedov said.
Mamedov deleted the post shortly after publishing it. He later posted another video showing him alone as he shadowboxed in what appears to be a living room.
Mamedov did not respond to a request for comment.
Authorities have threatened to punish those who breach self-isolation regulations with fines and prison terms, and have deported some foreigners found to have violated them.
Umar Kremlev, president of the Russian Boxing Federation, told Reuters on Wednesday he was aware that some national team boxers had not followed self-isolation rules and that the federation was now working to avoid further violations.
“They just went out to train,” Kremlev said. “You must understand that a professional athlete trains every day and can’t live without it.” He did not mention specific cases.
The Russian Boxing Federation said in a statement on Thursday that the boxers who had returned from London were training individually and remained in “complete self-isolation.”
In response to a Reuters request for comment, the Sports Ministry said athletes, like all Russian citizens, needed to comply with self-isolation measures.
“We urge all athletes to treat their health and the health of others responsibly,” it said.
Rasul Saliev, who competes in the flyweight class, posted a video on Instagram on March 19 showing him visiting a cafe in Makhachkala, in Russia’s southern Dagestan region, where he was drinking tea and eating dates with two people.
On Wednesday, Saliev uploaded a picture of himself and two other people taken at another cafe.
While Saliev’s posts on Instagram’s Stories were not dated, the feature is used almost exclusively for events happening the same day.
Saliev did not respond to a request for comment.
(Editing by Mike Collett-White)