Sports officials, athletes give mixed reactions to IOC ban on Russia

World Today

Russia won’t be represented at the 2018 Winter Olympics. But it’s not clear yet whether any of its athletes will compete in Pyeongchang.

If they do, it will be under a neutral flag. Russia’s Olympic Committee will make its decision sometime next week.

As CGTN’s Daria Bondarchuk reports, Moscow’s reaction is muted – for now.

After the shock, disappointment and condemnation that followed the decision of the International Olympic Committee to suspend the Russian Olympic Committee from 2018 Winter Games, Moscow is trying to figure out what to do next.

Some politicians are denouncing the IOC’s ban as politically motivated and urging athletes to think twice before turning away from their national team and flag.

“Of course it should be an athlete’s own decision,” Russian Parliament member Vladimir Gazzayev said. “But they should not forget about their civic stance.”

Others have argued Russia should consider all legal measures to defend its clean athletes.

“We should give a chance to our athletes and help Russian sportsmen get to the Olympics, and at the same time work on protecting the honor of the National Olympic Committee,” former world triathlon champion and member of the Federal Council Committee on Sports, Eduard Isakov said.

But Russia may have few options, as it is not clear where and how the IOC ban could be appealed, if at all. The Kremlin said emotions must be put aside and that “a serious analysis” of the IOC’s decision is needed before any steps are taken. The sport community is divided, though many renowned athletes and coaches insist clean Russian athletes should be given a chance to go to Pyeongchang.

“I can today thank the IOC for allowing Russian athletes to participate in the Olympics because they have only one life and, maybe, only one Olympics,” said Russian figure skating coach Tatiana Tarasova. “If the former sports minister knew how to run the selection correctly, I think we would not have such problems.”

Russia, meanwhile, remains “non-compliant’ with WADA’s anti-doping code, so the IOC has set out conditions for individual Russian athletes willing to compete in the Republic of Korea. They must have a clear record on doping, and undergo all the tests recommended by the IOC’s Pre-Games Testing Task Force.

Russia’s Olympic Committee has called for all would-be Olympic athletes, their coaches and heads of sports federations to gather at their headquarters here on 12 December, to decide whether Russian sportsmen will skip–or participate–in the 2018 Winter Games even if it is under a neutral flag.