6 Dec 2017

NZ fully supports IOC's ban on Russia

4:59 pm on 6 December 2017

New Zealand athletes and sports administrators have been overwhelmingly supportive of the International Olympic Committee's decision to ban Russia from February's Winter Olympics in South Korea.

The Olympic rings near Sochi during the 2014 Olympics.

The Olympic rings near Sochi during the 2014 Olympics. Photo: AFP

The IOC handed out the ban after they found evidence of an "unprecedented systematic manipulation" of the anti-doping system that has led to a series of suspensions for the country's athletes in recent months.

Russia topped the medal table in Sochi in 2014 with 13 golds, but that total was slowly cut as doping samples were re-tested and eventually the IOC felt that there had been widespread manipulation of the system.

Drugfree Sport NZ chief executive, Nick Paterson, says today's decision is for all the clean athletes competing at next year's games and for all those athletes who have previously been beaten by a cheat.

Patterson wants this decision to be a step forward.

"This isn't the international community saying we don't want Russia to play sport, we do, we want Russia involved in future competitions, but we need to make sure it is done on the right basis with an established anti-doping process, with an established testing regime so that we know their athletes are competing on the same basis as ours."

There will be some Russian athletes competing in South Korea, and like in Rio last year, they'll have to prove they're clean and had no links to any state sponsored doping.

The New Zealand men's alpine ski coach Nils Coberger accepts that the IOC probably had no other option.

Annelise Coberger (NZ) during the Albertiville Olympics. 1992.

Annelise Coberger (NZ) during the Albertiville Olympics. 1992. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Coberger, the brother of New Zealand's only winter olympic medalists, Annelise Coberger, says doping at the winter Olympics tends to involve the endurance events like cross country.

He's saddened that a number of innocent athletes, including those in his sport, alpine skiing, may not get to compete.

"We don't have a lot of history of doping or drug abuse so I'm sure it's going to affect the alpine skiers a lot and I know a lot of Europeans staff working for the Russians and I'm sure they'll be pretty gutted because its just affected everyone in a blanket decision but there was probably no other course of action for the IOC."

But it's not just the athletes that the IOC wants to penalise.... NZ BMX rider Sarah Walker is on the IOC's athletes commission and she says they're happy that the punishments will be more widespread.

"At the moment if an athlete is caught cheating it's only the athlete who is punished, so it is important to us that it was the entourage as well, the coaches, the medical staff, that had some kind of impact for what their involvement was as well."

The initial response to come out of Russia has been one of condemnation of the IOC's decision.

NZOC president Mike Stanley.

NZOC president Mike Stanley. Photo: Photosport

The President of the New Zealand Olympic Committee Mike Stanley expects Moscow to be defiant with the possibility of a boycott.

"They haven't accepted those reports and I'm sure they'll be considering their options at this point, it has been suggested that there may be a Russian boycott of the event. The IOC believes that boycotts aren't very constructive and haven't worked in the past, so we would hope that that wouldn't occur."

New Zealand so far has 11 athletes selected for the winter Olympics with another half a dozen likely to be added over the next couple of months.