Russian Olympic president insists more than 200 athletes could compete at Pyeongchang 2018 despite ban

Ben Rumsby
Russian Olympic president insists more than 200 athletes could compete at Pyeongchang 2018 despite ban

More than 200 Russians could still compete at February’s Winter Olympics, according to the president of the country’s banned Olympic committee.

A week after it was suspended over the biggest doping scandal in history, the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) voted unanimously to allow the nation’s athletes to participate at Pyeongchang 2018 under a neutral flag, ending any prospect of a widespread boycott.

Its president, Alexander Zhukov, also warned appeals would be launched with the Court of Arbitration for Sport over the ban from the Games of Russians to have previously committed drug offences.

Fuelling fears the sanctions handed down by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) last week were either window dressing or unenforceable, Zhukov said: “It’s hard to say say how many athletes will be going because the process still hasn’t finished.

READ MORE: Cardona given five-match ban for ‘discriminatory’ gesture

“But, according to our data, over 200 Russian athletes still hold the licences.”

The IOC banned more Russian athletes on Tuesday over what its own independent investigation found had been a “systematic” sample-swapping scheme at Sochi 2014.

Others could follow before the Olympics, with the World Anti-Doping Agency due on Thursday to provide a database to international federations that could potentially out further drugs cheats.

The IOC, meanwhile, said last week it would only allow those Russians who had submitted to a stringent pre-competition testing regime to take part in the Olympics.

But if all this still leads to hordes of Russians competing in Pyeongchang, it will undermine the credibility of the IOC’s response to the country’s doping scandal in almost the same way as its handling of the matter prior to last year’s Summer Games.

Its decision last week to allow each Russian competing to be designated as an ‘Olympic Athlete from Russia’ (OAR), rather than expressly as being neutral, raised suspicions it had struck a deal with the Kremlin to avoid a boycott.

That was compounded by the prospect of the word ‘Russia’ appearing in full on the team uniform and the ROC’s ban being lifted in time for the closing ceremony of the Games, before which the country’s flag and anthem will be prohibited.

Despite an initial backlash within the nation against the sanctions issued last week, its president, Vladimir Putin, was quick to announce he would not stand in the way of any Russian athlete who wanted to compete on that basis.

Talks will be held on Friday over the precise terms of Russian athletes’ participation as a neutrals, including the design of the OAR team uniform.

By using Yahoo you agree that Yahoo and partners may use Cookies for personalisation and other purposes