(ATR) Russian athletes will attend the PyeongChang 2018 Olympics.
Alexander Zhukov addresses the press in Moscow. (TASS)
In Moscow, the Russian Olympic Assembly cleared the country’s participation days after Russian President Vladimir Putin gave his seal of approval to attend. The assembly is described by Russian media as the “governing authority” of the Russian Olympic Committee comprised of representatives from Russian sport federations.
The assembly released a statement after today’s meeting saying it supports "each individual athlete’s choice” to go to PyeongChang. In addition, the assembly will “[furnish] support for the athletes who will go to the Games, those who will refuse and those who will not be invited."
Now the fate of any Russian athlete participating in PyeongChang will be up to the IOC. After sanctioning the Russian Olympic Committee and delegation, the IOC said a three-person panel will determine the eligibility of neutral Russian athletes. Those accepted by the panel will compete as “Olympic Athletes of Russia,” in PyeongChang.
Russian Olympic Committee President Alexander Zhukov told assembled media in Russia that he would not speculate on the expected size of the delegation that could go to the 2018 Games. Ultimately, he reminded reporters, that decision lies with the IOC and not Russian authorities.
"Potentially, the figure can reach the number of over 200 athletes,” Zhukov said, reported by TASS
Athletes that make the decision to go to PyeongChang will have the support of the highest echelons of Russian leadership. After the Olympic Assembly took its decision, a spokesperson for Russian President Vladimir Putin said he was supportive of the actions taken.
Dmitry Peskov, a Kremlin spokesperson, reiterated that Putin already said there would be “no obstacles,” for any athlete choosing to compete in PyeongChang, according to TASS
“Now that the Olympic Assembly concluded its session and made its decision, we can speak about [Putin’s] support,” Peskov added.
Russian sports minister Pavel Kolobkov told TASS that the country has “a very difficult period is ahead of us,” as the IOC sorts out qualified athletes. Kolobkov says that all trials for PyeongChang are continuing on schedule and any athlete will be supported by the ministry.
The IOC must still determine if this flag can be present in PyeongChang (Getty Images)
"Our athletes will continue with their preparations and training in line with the initially approved schedule," Kolobkov said. "All athletes, no matter if they eventually participate in the Olympics or they do not, will be provided with an all-embracing assistance from the Russian Sports Ministry, in terms of legal, financial and moral support."
USADA Calls for Transparent Process
United States Anti-Doping Agency chief executive Travis Tygart says to maintain trust in the decision, the IOC must be transparent about which Russians go to PyeongChang.
“There’s a lot of devil in the detail of the IOC’s decision,” Tygart told Around the Rings
. “The individual Russian athlete eligibility process must be transparent and robust, in order to ensure this is not a scam, to ensure the rights of all athletes to fair competition. Clean athletes from around the world are counting on the eligibility process to keep their interests first.”
Independent Testing Authority chair Valerie Fourneyron will chair and IOC commission that will invite Russian athletes to the Olympics based on requirements set by the IOC Executive Board. Athletes must meet PyeongChang qualification standards, complete all IOC pre-Games targeted tests, and have no previous anti-doping violations.
An IOC commission led by Nicole Hoevertsz is in charge of setting rules and regulations for Russian Athletes during the Winter Olympics.
PyeongChang to Russian Airwaves
Russian state run broadcaster Channel One says it will broadcast the 2018 Winter Olympics, reversing a previous statement. The decision came after the Russian Olympic Assembly said it would support athletes competing in PyeongChang as neutrals.
“Competitions in which Russian athletes are participating will, of course, be broadcast,” a Channel One spokesperson was quoted as saying in the Moscow Times.
Written by Aaron Bauer
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