Putin won’t pre­vent ath­letes from com­pet­ing in Pyeongchang

The Myanmar Times - Weekend - - Sport -

RUS­SIAN Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin said on Wed­nes­day that Rus­sia would not pre­vent its ath­letes from com­pet­ing at the 2018 Pyeongchang Win­ter Olympics if they wanted to, damp­ing down calls from some Rus­sians for a boy­cott of the Games.

The IOC on Tues­day banned the Rus­sian team from the Olympics af­ter ev­i­dence emerged of an “un­prece­dented sys­tem­atic ma­nip­u­la­tion” of the anti-dop­ing sys­tem but left the door open for some Rus­sians to com­pete as neu­trals if they demon­strate they have a dop­ing-free back­ground.

“With­out any doubt, we will not de­clare a block­ade, we will not pre­vent our Olympians from tak­ing part (in the Games), if one of them wants to par­tic­i­pate in a per­sonal ca­pac­ity,” Putin said on state tele­vi­sion.

In his first com­ments since the ban, Putin took aim at Grig­ory Rod­chenkov, the for­mer head of Moscow’s anti-dop­ing lab­o­ra­tory whose al­le­ga­tions of state-spon­sored dop­ing and a cover-up at the Sochi 2014 Win­ter Olympics trig­gered in­ves­ti­ga­tions that ul­ti­mately led to the IOC de­ci­sion.

With­out iden­ti­fy­ing Rod­chenkov by name, Putin said the IOC’S de­ci­sion had been “mainly based on the tes­ti­monies of a per­son whose moral and eth­i­cal at­ti­tudes and psy­cho­log­i­cal state raise many ques­tions.”

“Most of the ac­cu­sa­tions are based on facts that have not been proven and are largely un­founded,” Putin said.

Putin said that Rus­sia bore a share of blame for the IOC de­ci­sion for hav­ing given in­ter­na­tional Olympic au­thor­i­ties a pre­text for ban­ning the coun­try.

“I think that this ex­cuse was not used in an hon­est way, to put it mildly,” Putin said with­out elab­o­rat­ing.

He did not budge on Rus­sia’s in­sis­tence that there was no state-spon­sored dop­ing sys­tem in the coun­try.

“Why are our Olympians be­ing banned from com­pet­ing un­der the Rus­sian flag and na­tional sym­bols, if there is no state sup­port for dop­ing? Then pun­ish those who are guilty,” Putin said.

Putin, who an­nounced on Wed­nes­day he would run in a Rus­sian pres­i­den­tial elec­tion next year, said he had not in­structed of­fi­cials to de­liver vic­tory for the Rus­sian team at the Sochi Games.

The Krem­lin leader said a fi­nal de­ci­sion on Rus­sia’s stance re­gard­ing the IOC ban would be made at a meet­ing of Rus­sian Olympic au­thor­i­ties in the com­ing days.

South Korea’s sports min­istry said yes­ter­day that the ban on Rus­sia participation is “re­gret­table”, and urged Rus­sian ath­letes to take part.

“If we will be able to see the ex­cel­lent per­for­mance that Rus­sian ath­letes demon­strated in pre­vi­ous win­ter games, that will make a huge con­tri­bu­tion to the suc­cess of the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics,” the min­istry said in a state­ment.

Rus­sian au­thor­i­ties have ve­he­mently de­nied any state sup­port for dop­ing and have pledged to co­op­er­ate with in­ter­na­tional sports au­thor­i­ties to counter the use of banned per­for­mance-en­hanc­ing drugs.

In the weeks ahead of Tues­day’s IOC de­ci­sion, more than 20 Rus­sian ath­letes who com­peted at the 2014 Sochi Games were banned for life from the Olympics for hav­ing al­legedly vi­o­lated anti-dop­ing rules.

As for Yan­gon United, it is in Group G along with Bali United (or) Madura United from In­done­sia, the run­ners-up in the Philip­pines league, FLC Thanh Hoa or Hanoi FC from Viet­nam. The club is mak­ing its fifth ap­pear­ance in the com­pe­ti­tion.

“The AFC Cup is the sec­ond high­est level of com­pe­ti­tion in Asia. So we have pre­pared the best pos­si­ble way we could in or­der to com­pete with the best in Asia,’’ said Yan­gon United head coach U Myo Min Tun.

The com­pe­ti­tion will fea­ture three group from the ASEAN Zone. The win­ners of each group and the best run­ners-up will ad­vance to next stage. The group stage will be played on home-and-away ba­sis, with the matches kick­ing off on Feb 12. Yan­gon United will play In­done­sia’s Bali United or Madura United on Feb 13.

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