Russia Says It Will Analyze Winter Olympics Ban Before Making Any Decisions
RFE/RL December 06, 2017
Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman says the Kremlin will analyze the International Olympic Committee (IOC) ruling barring Russia from the upcoming 2018 Winter Olympics before making any decisions about the country's participation.
In a regular conference call with reporters on December 6, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that "we need to put emotions aside" and "make a serious analysis" of the IOC decision before taking any steps.
The IOC announced on December 5 that it had banned Russia from the February 9-25 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, after finding evidence of an "unprecedented systematic manipulation" of the Olympic anti-doping system.
Individual Russians will be allowed to compete as "Olympic athletes from Russia" (OAR) if they satisfy strict conditions meant to ensure that they have a doping-free background. If they were to win, the Olympic flag would be raised and the Olympic anthem played to honor their victories.
The IOC decision followed a conclusion that members of the Russian government came up with a system aimed to ensure Russian competitors could dope at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, without getting caught. The lead IOC investigator said the doping scheme "caused unprecedented damage to Olympism and to sports."
The ruling includes a ban at the Pyeongchang games on any sign of the Russian Olympic Committee or any member of the Russian Sports Ministry, which the IOC said was responsible for the elaborate scheme of "manipulation and cheating" at Sochi.
Asked whether the Russian officials who have been barred from attending the Olympics would be penalized or fired, Peskov said that was not a priority and that "protecting the interests of our athletes" was more important.
Russian Olympic Committee President Aleksandr Zhukov, whose IOC membership was suspended, told TV reporters after the decision in Lausanne, Switzerland, that he was satisfied that the word "Russia" would be used in reference to athletes under the OAR formula.
"They'll be called Russian athletes and not some kind of neutrals...that's very important," Zhukov said.
Putin has said that it would be humiliating for Russia to compete without its national symbols, but Peskov told reporters a day before the IOC ruling that a Russian boycott of the 2018 Winter Olympics was "not being discussed."
"We are against the infringement of our athletes' rights, the unjustifiable infringement of rights. But at the same time, Russia remains committed to the ideals of Olympism," he said on December 4.
Putin made no comment on the IOC decision in a televised appearance at a volunteers forum on December 6 at which he strongly hinted he will run for a new six-year term in Russia's March 2018 presidential election.
Putin and other Russian officials have denied Russia had a state-sponsored doping program, despite the thorough evidence documented by the IOC and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).
Putin suggested in November that the doping allegations were part of a U.S. campaign to influence the Russian election, which takes place about a month after the Olympics. Analysts said the allegation appeared to be an attempt to rally domestic support.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova made similar remarks on December 6 in response to the IOC decision, saying Moscow sees "a bigger picture of an aggressive campaign against the Russian Federation on the whole range of issues."
With reporting by AP and Reuters
Copyright (c) 2017. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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