7 Dec 2017

Russia won't stop athletes from competing

5:20 pm on 7 December 2017

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said Russia would not prevent its athletes from competing at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics if they want to.

Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Russian president Vladimir Putin. Photo: Photosport

The IOC on Wednesday (NZ time) 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 on Thursday.

Putin also 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.

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?," Putin said.

Meanwhile, South Korea's sports ministry said that the ban on Russia participation is "regrettable", and urged Russian atheletes to take part.

"If we will be able to see the excellent performance that Russian atheletes demonstrated in previous winter games, that will make a huge contributions to the success of the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics," the ministry said.

- Reuters