Putin says Rus­sians can go to Olympics

Ottawa Citizen - - SPORTS - JAMES ELLINGWORTH

Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin won’t boy­cott the PyeongChang Olympics.

Putin said Wed­nes­day his gov­ern­ment will al­low Rus­sians to com­pete as neu­tral ath­letes at the up­com­ing games in South Korea.

The In­ter­na­tional Olympic Com­mit­tee has banned the Rus­sian team from games as pun­ish­ment for dop­ing vi­o­la­tions at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. The IOC, how­ever, plans to in­vite in­di­vid­ual Rus­sians to com­pete un­der the Olympic flag.

“With­out any doubt we will not de­clare any kind of block­ade,” Putin said in tele­vised re­marks af­ter launch­ing his re-elec­tion cam­paign at an au­to­mo­bile fac­tory.

“We will not block our Olympians from tak­ing part, if any of them wish to take part as in­di­vid­u­als. They have been pre­par­ing for these com­pe­ti­tions for their whole ca­reers, and for them it’s very im­por­tant.”

A Rus­sian boy­cott would have been the big­gest at any Olympics since the Soviet Union and its al­lies missed the 1984 Los An­ge­les Games.

That was in re­sponse to the U.S.led boy­cott of the Moscow Olympics four years ear­lier.

Putin also said Rus­sia still did not ac­cept ac­cu­sa­tions that it ran a state-backed dop­ing sys­tem around the Sochi Olympics. He called the IOC rul­ing “po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated” and un­fair “col­lec­tive pun­ish­ment.”

An IOC com­mis­sion ruled Tues­day that there was a dop­ing sys­tem, but said it found no ev­i­dence “the high­est state au­thor­ity” knew. How­ever, it said of Yuri Nagornykh, the deputy sports min­is­ter at the time of the Sochi Games, “it is impossible to con­clude that he was not aware” of dop­ing coverups.

Rus­sian ath­letes, coaches and politi­cians have lined up to con­demn the IOC rul­ing, but most say it’s bet­ter to ac­cept it and com­pete.

Rus­sian IOC mem­ber Ye­lena Is­in­bayeva, a two-time Olympic gold medal­list in the pole vault, came out against a boy­cott.

“I’d like to tell all Rus­sian ath­letes pre­par­ing for the Olympics in PyeongChang not to get dis­ap­pointed in any case and def­i­nitely not to do any­thing stupid like a boy­cott,” Is­in­bayeva told state TV. “It’s clearly not worth it.”

Vi­taly Mutko was Rus­sia’s sports min­is­ter dur­ing the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Mutko is now a deputy prime min­is­ter and in charge of the coun­try’s prepa­ra­tions for next year’s soc­cer World Cup.

He was barred from the Olympics for life by the IOC on Tues­day.

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