Olympics - Absence of Russia in Pyeongchang would be 'blow' to Games: Kremlin

FILE PHOTO - Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov speaks on the phone before a session of the Council of Heads of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) in Sochi, Russia October 11, 2017. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov (Reuters)

MOSCOW (Reuters) - The Kremlin on Tuesday said it hoped Russia could mend its relations with the International Olympic Committee (IOC), adding that the country's absence from the Pyeongchang Winter Games would be a blow to the Olympic movement.

Calls from some athletes and anti-doping agencies for a blanket ban of Russians in Pyeongchang have been growing louder amid ongoing IOC investigations into doping at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

The IOC is re-testing all Russian athletes' samples from the 2014 Games following revelations by Grigory Rodchenkov, the former head of Moscow's discredited anti-doping laboratory, of a scheme to cover up home competitors' positive samples.

The IOC has said it would decide on the participation of Russian competitors at the Pyeongchang Olympics in February during its executive board meeting next month.

Russia topped the medal table in Sochi with 12 golds, 10 silver and nine bronze.

"We hope that dialogue with the IOC will be continued and all issues will be settled," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on a conference call with reporters.

"We wouldn't like to talk about the worst scenario linked to the non-participation of our athletes at the Games. This would be a blow to the international Olympic movement."

Russian cross-country skiers Alexander Legkov and Evgeniy Belov were banned for life from the Olympics last week by the IOC as part of an investigation into allegations of widespread doping among Russians and sample tampering by laboratory and security officials at the Sochi Games.

The Sochi scandal is part of a broader doping affair that has led to the suspension of Russia's anti-doping agency RUSADA, its athletics federation and Paralympic Committee.

RUSADA has been suspended by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) since a report published in November 2015, led by Canadian law professor Richard McLaren, found evidence of state-sponsored doping and accused it of systematically violating anti-doping regulations.

Peskov said that there were a "string of problematic issues" regarding Russian athletes' use of banned performance-enhancing drugs, but they had nothing to do with alleged state-sponsored doping.

"We categorically deny this possibility," Peskov said.

Authorities in Russia have never acknowledged the state's role in the scandal.

(Reporting by Maria Tsvetkova; Writing by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Toby Davis)