Russia's Olympic Committee to support its neutral athletes at Winter
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[December 13, 2017]
By Gabrielle Tetrault-Farber
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia's Olympic
Committee agreed on Tuesday to support its athletes who choose to
compete in next year's Winter Games in South Korea as neutrals
following a ban on the Russian national team.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) last week banned Russia
from the Games, due to take place in Pyeongchang in February, for
what it called "unprecedented systematic manipulation" of the
But it left the door open for Russian athletes with a clean history
of non-doping to be invited to compete as neutrals under an Olympic
flag, not a Russian one.
President Vladimir Putin said last week Russia would not prevent its
athletes from competing, dismissing calls by some for a boycott, and
a Russian Olympic official said on Monday most Russian athletes
still wanted to attend.
The Russian committee (ROC) agreed its position at a meeting on
Tuesday attended by sporting figures including the national men's
hockey team, figure skaters, speed skaters and the presidents of
winter sports federations.
"All the participants were of the same opinion - our sportsmen need
to go to Korea, need to compete, achieve victory for the glory of
Russia, for the glory of our motherland," ROC President Alexander
Zhukov said Russia would do its best to support Russian athletes
competing under a neutral flag and hold serious talks with the IOC
in the near future to discuss the problems and practicalities of the
He did not say what form this support would take.
"Russian sportsmen have stated their readiness to take part in the
Olympic Games, despite the difficult conditions and decision of the
IOC, which is undoubtedly unfair in many ways," he said.
Zhukov added that Russia would also support the athletes who had
decided not to compete in Pyeongchang.
Senior Russian Olympic official Vitaly Smirnov, who heads Russia's
state-backed anti-doping commission, said the country had made the
"right decision" not to boycott.
"A boycott is not a solution," Smirnov said. "That (would mean) new
sanctions and problems for our athletes."
In recent weeks more than 30 Russian athletes who competed at the
2014 Sochi Games have been banned for life from the Olympics for
allegedly breaching anti-doping rules.
And the IOC slapped lifetime bans on six Russian female ice hockey
players a few hours after the Russian announcement on Tuesday.
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Russian athletes attend a meeting on the country's participation at
the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, at the Russian Olympic
Committee (ROC) in Moscow, Russia December 12, 2017. REUTERS/Maxim
Russian authorities have vehemently denied any state support for
doping and have pledged to co-operate with international sports
bodies to counter the use of banned performance-enhancing drugs.
Russia's athletics federation, paralympic committee and anti-doping
agency RUSADA remain suspended over doping scandals.
"OLYMPIC ATHLETE FROM RUSSIA"
Sitting in the front row of the Russian Olympic Committee auditorium
ahead of the meeting, hockey star Ilya Kovalchuk said he would not
mind competing at the Games as an "Olympic Athlete from Russia," the
term the IOC uses to designate the Russians who will go to
"We are athletes from Russia, after all," Kovalchuk told reporters.
"They took the flag away but they can't take away our honor and our
Kovalchuk, one of the first to call for athletes to compete in
Pyeongchang after the IOC ban, thanked authorities for taking the
opinions of athletes into consideration.
"Thank you for having heard us, for having believed us," Kovalchuk
said. "I think that every athlete who takes part in the Olympic
Games in Pyeonchang will do everything possible."
Olympic fencer Sofya Velikaya, chair of the ROC's athletes
commission, called on the Russian public to respect athletes'
decisions to go to Pyeongchang amid concerns that some could be
branded traitors for agreeing to compete without the country's flag.
"The athletes will show their love for their motherland and their
patriotism through their results, through their accomplishments and
medals," Velikaya said.
(Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Richard
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