The Latest: Pyeongchang organizers respect IOC decision
LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — The Latest on Russian doping (all times local):
Organizers of the Pyeongchang Olympics have issued a statement saying they accept and respect the International Olympic Committee’s decision to allow Russian athletes to compete under a neutral flag at the Winter Games in February.
“We will work with the IOC and all other relevant stakeholders accordingly to ensure that all the athletes and officials attending the games as part of this team are given the best experience possible,” the statement read.
The Winter Games will run Feb. 9-25 at Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Russia’s top Olympic official apologized to the International Olympic Committee board for doping violations ahead of its ruling that Russian athletes must compete under a neutral flag in Pyeongchang.
“I as president of the Russian Olympic Committee, apologize for breaches of anti-doping rules which were committed in our country,” ROC president Alexander Zhukov said, according to a text of his speech on the Russian Olympic Committee website.
However, Zhukov, in his speech, rejected the evidence behind the central charge that Russia ran a doping system at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
The speech describes the World Anti-Doping Agency’s key whistleblower, former Moscow and Sochi anti-doping lab director Grigory Rodchenkov, as “a fraudster” and an unreliable witness who was himself the main cause of any doping violations.
Zhukov also says in the speech that Russians competing under a neutral flag at the Olympics would “feel like outcasts.”
Zhukov struck a more conciliatory tone after the IOC ruling, saying he would discuss the issue of Russian participation with athletes, and praised the IOC for proposing the designation “Olympic Athlete from Russia” for Pyeongchang, rather than a totally neutral name.
Ian Chesterman, chef de mission for Australia’s Olympic team at Pyeongchang, said the IOC’s decision was an “appropriate and considered response ... punishing those involved in the blatant cheating, the systematic manipulation that took place during the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games while allowing clean athletes to compete in Pyeongchang.”
In an Australian Olympic statement Wednesday, Chesterman added: “The culprits, the corrupt, have been dealt with. Russia, and all involved with Sochi 2014, had a responsibility to nurture the Olympic Games and respect the athletes competing by providing a fair competition. Clearly, across so many levels, that trust was abused.”
Former NHL player Ilya Kovalchuk says Russia must go to the Olympics despite not being able to use its national flag at the Pyeongchang Games.
Kovalchuk tells Russian news agencies that a boycott would not work. He says “refusing means giving in” to what he terms political pressure.
The IOC has ruled that any Russian gold medalists will have the Olympic anthem, not the Russian anthem, played on the podium. Kovalchuk says Russian players will sing their anthem if they can win a medal.
Kovalchuk adds that “patriotism and love for your country, it’s in your heart. For that you don’t have to shout or even wear the flag on your chest. And if, I hope to God, we manage to compete well, then we’ll definitely sing the anthem.”
Kovalchuk was named to Russia’s pre-Olympic hockey team on Tuesday.
The spokesperson for the Russian foreign ministry says the IOC ruling is “painful.”
Maria Zakharova writes on Facebook: “Is it painful? Very. ... Will we survive? Yes.”
Zakharova adds that the 2014 Sochi Games showed that “Russia hosted a truly excellent Olympics.”
The IOC ruled there was a doping conspiracy at the Sochi Olympics.
The IOC is seeking to wipe away much of Russia’s tainted Sochi operation from future Olympics.
Sochi organizing committee CEO Dmitry Chernyshenko has lost his place on the IOC panel overseeing preparations for the 2022 Beijing Olympics.
Chernyshenko was a familiar smiling face at the Sochi Games, which Russia spent $51 billion to organize and stage, and now leads the Kontinental Hockey League.
In a swathe of punishments for the Sochi doping program, the IOC also ruled that “no member of the leadership of the Russian Olympic Team” in Sochi can be invited to the Pyeongchang Olympics.
Coaches and medical doctors whose athletes have been guilty of a doping violation will also be barred from accreditation in South Korea.
The honorary president of the Russian Olympic committee says the country’s sportsmen and sportswomen should compete at the Pyeongchang Games as neutral athletes rather than boycott.
Leonid Tyagachev tells Russian state TV that “there’s a ruling, but just allow young athletes who didn’t compete at the Olympics in Sochi, let them compete clean and show that we’re from Russia and we’re not pariahs.”
Russian TV news has typically portrayed allegations of a doping system as unjust, and cited comments from viewers condemning the ruling.
Broadcasts on Russia’s main rolling news channel showed graphics including the Olympic rings crossed out with a red line and the phrase #noRUSSIAnoGAMES.
The president of the Russian Olympic committee says the country’s athletes need time to consider whether they will take part in the Pyeongchang Games.
Alexander Zhukov says “we plan for it to be discussed” by Russian sports officials and athletes at a forthcoming meeting before a final decision on participation, but didn’t give a date.
Zhukov paints the ruling as a compromise, saying “there’s positive and negative sides,” and praising the International Olympic Committee decision to use the term “Olympic Athlete from Russia” for Russian competitors under a neutral flag.
Previously, suspended countries have used terms such as “Independent Olympic Athlete,” which was used last year for Kuwaiti competitors at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Zhukov says “they’ll be called Russian athletes and not some kind of neutrals ... that’s very important.”
Two-time reigning world champion figure skater Evgenia Medvedeva, who also appeared in front of the IOC board, won’t say if she’ll compete as a neutral.
Medvedeva says “it will be discussed more and it’s very early to ask questions like that.”
Olympic bronze medalist Matt Antoine was wrong, and was thrilled.
The American has been very outspoken in his criticism of how the IOC and the World Anti-Doping Agency has handled sanctioning Russia and its athletes for their roles in the state-sponsored doping scandal at the 2014 Sochi Games.
He says he was “truly in shock” when he heard the IOC ruling that will bar Russia from Pyeongchang and allow clean Russian athletes to compete under the Olympic flag.
“It is without a doubt the correct decision and the only option that allows for athletes, nations, and fans to continue to believe in the Olympic movement,” Antoine said.
Antoine says the decision was bold, and that athletes are celebrating the IOC’s stance.
“Dedicated athletes around the world thank you,” Antoine said.
The International Olympic Committee has ruled the Kremlin was not responsible for widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Sochi Games.
An IOC disciplinary commission under Samuel Schmid “has not found any documented, independent and impartial evidence confirming the support or the knowledge of this system by the highest state authority.”
However, the IOC has banned Vitaly Mutko and Yuri Nagornykh, who were Russia’s minister and deputy minister of sport at the time of the Sochi Olympics, from attending any future games.
Schmid’s commission does not specifically accuse either of wrongdoing, but says Mutko must “bear the major part of the administrative responsibility” because the ministry was tasked with overseeing anti-doping operations at the Sochi Olympics.
The immediate reaction from many athletes after the International Olympic Committee’s decision was this: Will Russia compete at all?
Russia was likely to be a medal factor at the Pyeongchang Games in several sliding sports, primarily men’s bobsled, men’s skeleton, women’s skeleton and men’s luge.
USA Luge veteran Chris Mazdzer says many Russians on the World Cup luge circuit had told him in recent weeks that they expected a full ban, and he’s wondering if President Vladimir Putin could decide to boycott.
“Putin could just say, ‘You can’t compete,’ and they won’t,” Mazdzer said.
Erin Hamlin, who won a bronze medal in women’s luge at the 2014 Sochi Games, says she wouldn’t be surprised if Russians weren’t in Pyeongchang at all.
“Russia is such a proud nation,” Hamlin said. “It wouldn’t surprise me if they were not allowed to.”
The IOC has banned Russian Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko for life from the Olympics for his role in the country’s doping program.
Mutko, who was sports minister at the time of the 2014 Sochi Olympics, remains head of the 2018 World Cup organizing committee.
IOC commission chairman Samuel Schmid says the doping program “was under the authority of the Russian sports ministry. That is why the then sports minister has responsibility for the failure of this system.”
Mutko appeared at the Kremlin last week alongside FIFA President Gianni Infantino. There was no immediate comment from FIFA on Mukto’s continuing role as head of the Russian soccer federation and the World Cup organizing committee.
The International Olympic Committee says Russian athletes will be able to compete at the upcoming Pyeongchang Olympics as neutrals.
The IOC, which also suspended the Russian Olympic committee and IOC member Alexander Zhukov, says some competitors will be invited to participate as an “Olympic Athlete from Russia (OAR)” without their national flag or anthem.
Russia could refuse the offer and boycott the games.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has previously said it would be humiliating for Russia to compete without national symbols.
The IOC also imposed a fine of $15 million on the Russian Olympic committee.
The IOC’s medical director says Russian athletes are “particularly emphasized” in targeted doping tests on athletes preparing for the Pyeongchang Olympics.
The International Olympic Committee’s top doctor, Richard Budgett, says requirements being put on Russia are “not made on other countries.”
Budgett briefed media on the Pyeongchang anti-doping task force’s work ahead of attending an IOC executive board meeting that will decide if Russian athletes can go to the upcoming games.
From April through October, almost 7,000 samples were taken from 4,000 athletes in tests coordinated by the IOC, World Anti-Doping Agency and winter sports federations.
The IOC says more than 17 percent of samples were taken from Russians. Skiers and snowboarders provided 471 out of 1,240 total Russian samples.
Budgett says athletes going to South Korea “can be more confident than ever” of a clean Olympics.
The IOC executive board is meeting to decide if Russian athletes can compete at the upcoming Pyeongchang Olympics despite evidence that the country ran an orchestrated doping program at the 2014 Sochi Games.
The International Olympic Committee did not bar Russia from the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. The IOC instead asked sports governing bodies to decide which athletes could compete.
The IOC could now impose a stricter sanction by allowing Russians to compete only as neutral athletes without their national team name, flag or anthem.
IOC President Thomas Bach is scheduled to announce the 14-member board’s decision at 7:30 p.m. (1830 GMT) Tuesday.