‘Russia ban would be great loss to Olympic movement’

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MOSCOW: The Kremlin on Tuesday said it would be a ‘great loss’ for the Olympic movement if the Russian team were to be banned from the 2018 Winter Games over doping.

The statement came after the New York Times quoted a source in the International Olympic Committee (IOC) saying Russia would be allowed to participate in the Pyeongchang Games with certain limitations.

“We obviously don’t want to talk about the worst case scenario, which is to say Russia’s non-participation in the Olympics, because that would be a great loss to the whole Olympic movement,” President Vladimir Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov told journalists.

“Russia is a responsible member of the Olympic movement. You know the responsibility with which Russia held the Olympic Games in Sochi, how highly the IOC appreciated these Games,” Peskov added.

“At the behest of Russia’s president our sports officials are carrying on a dialogue with the IOC and its representatives. We hope that cooperation with the IOC will continue and these issues will be resolved”.

Last month Putin said the United States had put indirect pressure on the IOC to block Russia from the Winter Games, adding it would be a ‘humiliation’ for the country.

The IOC is currently assessing whether Russian athletes will be allowed to appear at the event in South Korea in February.

An explosive 2016 report commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency alleged state-sponsored doping in Russia from 2011 to 2015.

The investigation said the cheating peaked at the 2014 Winter Olympics in the Black Sea resort of Sochi where Russian secret agents engineered an elaborate system of doping.

Russia denies any state-sponsored system of doping.

Meanwhile, Russian cross country skier Alexander Legkov says he will fight to clear his name after being sanctioned for doping at the 2014 Sochi Games and hit with a lifetime ban from the Olympics last week.

Legkov and Evgeniy Belov were the first Russians to be sanctioned for anti-doping rule violations following an IOC investigation into allegations of widespread doping among Russians and sample tampering by laboratory and security officials at the Sochi Games.

Legkov won gold in the 50km freestyle and a silver medal in the 4x10km relay event in Sochi. The IOC said all of Russia’s 4x10km team would be disqualified given Legkov’s violation.

Belov, who competed in the men’s skiathlon 15+15km mass start event and the 15km classic country skiing event, did not medal at the Games.

Legkov, in his first public comments since being banned, wrote on his Instagram page late on Monday: “My medal is clean. I will fight. In the past years I was tested more than 150 times and I was clean.

“I was tested not in Moscow or in Sochi, but in Cologne, Lausanne and Dresden.

“We all have to comply with the sanctions procedure which none of us can be sure … is fair and free of other interests,” Legkov said. “Every athlete, no matter from which country, can end up in this kind of situation.”

The IOC did not specify what kind of anti-doping rule violation Legkov and Belov had committed, but said both of them were “ineligible to be accredited in any capacity for all editions of the Games … subsequent to the Sochi Olympic winter Games.”

Russia’s cross country federation said last week it was preparing to appeal the IOC decision.

The IOC is re-testing all Russian athletes’ samples from the 2014 Games following revelations by Grigory Rodchenkov, the former head of Moscow’s discredited anti-doping laboratory, of a scheme to cover up home competitors’ positive samples.

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