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December 13, 2017

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Home » Sports » Olympics

ROC nod for athletes under neutral flag

THE Russian Olympic Committee formally gave its blessing yesterday for the country’s athletes to compete under a neutral flag at the upcoming Pyeongchang Winter Games.

Under International Olympic Committee sanctions announced last week in response to Russian doping at the 2014 Sochi Games, Russians will compete under the Olympic flag as “Olympic Athletes from Russia.”

“The opinion of all taking part was united, and that was that our athletes need to go to South Korea, compete and win,” ROC president Alexander Zhukov said after the organization held a closed congress yesterday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin gave his backing last week.

Some Russians will formally be invited by the IOC to compete as individual athletes, though the ROC will submit rosters of its preferred teams.

“I think the IOC will make sure that the strongest Russian athletes get the invitations, so that, for example, our hockey team consists of the best players,” Zhukov said, adding that 200 athletes could compete in Korea.

Russian athletes going to Pyeongchang still need to pass a screening from an IOC committee which will examine their history of drug testing.

Zhukov said Russia still denies operating a doping program at the 2014 Olympics and rejected any suggestion he had made a deal with the IOC to avoid harsher sanctions. “It’s unacceptable to take away an athlete’s right to represent his country. In my view, it breaks not only the Olympic charter, but human rights,” he said. “So you really can’t talk about a deal here.”

Twenty-five athletes have been banned for doping at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, all of whom have filed appeals to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. IOC rules bar Russians from Pyeongchang if they have previously served doping bans.


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