Moscow : Russia on Wednesday reacted with disappointment but no great surprise after the country was banned from the Winter Olympic Games.
Russia was banned from the 2018 Winter Games by the International Olympic Committee over its state- orchestrated doping programme, but clean Russian athletes will be allowed to compete under an Olympic flag.
Later in the day, President Vladimir Putin said Russia would allow athletes to compete at the 2018 Winter Olympics under a neutral flag, after the country was banned from the Games over a state-orchestrated doping programme.
The head of Russia’s Olympic Committee, Alexander Zhukov, told the IOC that punishing clean athletes was “unjust and immoral”.
Russian media expressed regret at the decision while welcoming the possibility of some athletes participating, albeit under tight restrictions.
“It’s very hard to take accusations and punishments. But the fate of our athletes and preserving our place in the Olympic family is more important,” wrote the Sport Express daily.
“Can’t get by without Russia,” the pro-Kremlin Izvestia daily headlined its front page, stressing that “Russian Olympic athletes will defend the honour of the Motherland under any banner.” “Will Russia be at the Olympics but without a flag?” Sport Express newspaper headlined its front page, calling the decision “unprecedented”.
It slammed the IOC decision as “very harsh and in some ways even humiliating for Russia,” citing the life bans on attending the games for ex-sports minister Vitaly Mutko, now first deputy prime minister.
Nevertheless, the IOC President Thomas Bach “left the door open for Russia” by allowing athletes to participate in some form, even with the word “Russia” on their uniforms, the newspaper wrote.
Some top sports figures agreed, with ice hockey forward Ilya Kovalchuk telling TASS state news agency: “We must go to the Olympics. Refusing is surrender.”
Pole vault star Yelena Isinbayeva told TASS: “Addressing our athletes, I want to say that they should absolutely not despair and should continue training for the games.”
Pro-Kremlin media focused on discrediting Grigory Rodchenkov, the whistle blower who gave evidence of a state- controlled doping programme in which he played a central role.
Rodchenkov has been living in hiding in the United States since lifting the lid on the intricate workings of the state- supported scheme to cheat athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. “Grigory Rodchenkov is the perfect traitor,” wrote tabloid daily Komsomolskaya Pravda.
It said the IOC’s actions proved that “you can destroy a whole Olympic country on the basis of indirect evidence and a single witness who was under a criminal investigation and has been treated in a psychiatric hospital.
South Korean organisers of the 2018 Winter Olympics said Wednesday they would welcome Russian athletes to compete under a neutral flag after Moscow was banned from the Games over its state-orchestrated doping programme.
“We accept and respect the decisions of the IOC Executive Board that Russia may compete under a neutral flag,” the Pyeongchang organising committee said in a statement.
“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 International Olympic Committee Tuesday banned Russia from the 2018 Winter Games in the toughest sanctions ever levelled by the IOC for drug cheating.
An explosive report by the World Anti-doping Agency (WADA) and two subsequent IOC investigations have confirmed that Russian athletes took part in an elaborate drug cheating programme which peaked during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
Rather than a blanket ban, the IOC chose a more moderate path which offers some Russian athletes a route to compete in the Games.
South Korean organisers of the 2018 Winter Olympics said they would welcome Russian athletes to compete under a neutral flag