Putin : Russian sports fans 'sad' about Olympic ban

Thursday, 07 Dec, 2017

The Russian Olympic Team's suspension from the upcoming 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea is an orchestrated and politically-motivated decision, President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday.

"Undoubtedly, we will not declare any blockade, will not prevent our Olympic athletes from participating, if anyone of them wants to participate in their personal capacity", Putin said while talking to workers of the Gorky Automobile Plant in remarks aired on Russian television.

There had been speculation Moscow could boycott the Games entirely after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Tuesday barred the country from competition over what its chief Thomas Bach described as Russia's "unprecedented attack on the integrity of the Olympic Games and sport".

Russia's sleds were already depleted by retirements since Sochi, even before the top Russian pilot in the two-man and four-man events, Alexander Kasyanov, was handed an IOC lifetime Olympic ban earlier this month. "Most of the accusations are based on claims which have not been proven and are largely unfounded", he added.

The Russian media is particularly dismissive of Grigory Rodchenkov, the whistleblower responsible for exposing Russia's state-sponsored doping programme at Sochi 2014.

"It is not lost on many clean athletes that Russian athletes who were part of this system may have had no choice but to comply".

Travis Tygart CEO of the United States Anti-Doping Agency said: "Over the past three years, a high stakes game of chicken has been played between those willing to sacrifice the Olympic ideals by employing a state-directed doping program to cheat to win and, on the other side, athletes unwilling to stand silent while their hopes and dreams were stolen and the Olympic Games hijacked".

Former Canadian cross-country skier Beckie Scott has been an anti-doping advocate since her bronze medal in 2002 was upgraded to silver and then gold because athletes were disqualified for doping.

Other questions likely to be deliberated by Hoevertsz include support staff and personnel allowed to accompany the Russian team and whether Russian spectators will be permitted to take flags into venues.

The IOC's decision was met with an eruption of irate denunciations from Russian officials, who attacked it as unfair and as part of a Western plot.

Ivan Melnikov, First Deputy Speaker in Russia's parliament on Tuesday called the ban "unthinkably harsh", the news agency Interfax reported.

It's still unclear when will ITA issue decisions on who is eligible to participate in the Olympic Games. Zhukov said that it was positive that Russian athletes could still participate in Pyeongchang.

The IOC is ordering Russia's athletes to show they are clean of any doping. He also noted that it was "very important" that the neutral uniforms that Russian athletes would wear would still have the word "Russia" on them.

But Calgary curler Chelsea Carey was less forgiving, saying she's not comfortable with allowing Russians to compete as neutrals because they're not being held to the same standard as her.

"It was the furthest they could go in terms of levelling a sanction and consequences for what became known about Russian Federation and their doping system", Scott said. "I can't say that the activities of the International Olympic Committee are honest".