Putin to Allow Athletes to Compete as Individuals in PyeongChang

Putin to Allow Athletes to Compete as Individuals in PyeongChang

A hard line has been taken by the All-Russia State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company, or VGTRK, which said Tuesday that if Team Russia isn't competing in South Korea, it won't broadcast the 2018 Winter Olympics. "Secondly, I don't see any reason for a boycott by the Russian athletes because we allow the clean athletes there to participate".

However, it said of Yuri Nagornykh, the deputy sports minister at the time of the Sochi Games, "it is impossible to conclude that he was not aware" of doping cover-ups.

An IOC commission chaired by former Swiss president Samuel Schmid ruled Tuesday that there was a doping system but said it found no evidence that "the highest state authority" knew.

Russian Federation continues to plead its innocence while blaming whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov, the former director of the country's anti-doping laboratory that oversaw testing at Sochi.

The punishment is the culmination of a three-year investigation into state-sponsored doping leading up to and during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport said Wednesday it had received appeals from 22 Russian athletes over the bans, and that they asked for the CAS to rule before the Pyeongchang games begin.

Although Russian athletes will be allowed to compete in Pyeongchang under the Olympic flag, and under strict conditions, the move to exclude a country over doping by the IOC on Tuesday was unprecedented. Zhukov said that it was positive that Russian athletes could still participate in Pyeongchang.

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"It's a very fearless decision where the International Olympic Committee penalises a state guilty of so-called institutional doping, bans doped athletes and permits clean ones".

Other Russians were more forthright, with Alexei Kravtsov, president of the Russian Skating Union, saying: "The decision is offensive, insulting and completely unjustified". This pressure has nothing in common with the ideology of the Olympic movement.

Pole vault star Yelena Isinbayeva told TASS: "Addressing our athletes, I want to say that they should absolutely not despair and should continue training for the games".

In related news, South Korean-born Russian short track speed skater Victor An said Wednesday he wishes to compete as a neutral athlete.

The IOC has also been declaring sanctioned athletes ineligible for future Olympics as it strips them of their victories - an approach that has promised to reshape the field for the upcoming Pyeongchang Games.

"(Ahead of Rio) there was no opportunity to hear the Russian side and at the time of Rio it was mainly about the failure in the Moscow lab. It did, however, leave the door open for Russian athletes who have passed rigorous drug tests to compete.

Given that the allegations about Russia's plan to sabotage the anti-doping system at Sochi 2014 have now been corroborated by two International Olympic Committee commissions and a World Anti-Doping Agency-funded investigation, the Russian athletes' chances of overturning their disqualifications look slim, as do their hopes of competing in Pyeongchang.

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