International Olympic Committee bans Russian Federation from 2018 Winter Olympics

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Russian athletes who can incontrovertibly prove that they are untainted by doping will be "invited" to compete at February's Winter Games but won't be allowed to display any national symbols - something President Vladimir Putin has previously said would be an humiliation.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko, who was banned for life from the Olympics this week, insisted on Thursday there was no state-backed doping in Russia and slammed the decision to exclude Russia from the 2018 Winter Games.

The IOC announced Tuesday that Russian athletes will not be allowed to represent the country over the course of the upcoming Winter Games, but instead will participate - if qualified - as 'Olympic Athletes of Russia, ' and will do so under a neutral flag.

The IOC made a decision to suspend the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) with immediate effect, but Russian athletes would still be able to compete at the PyeongChang Games in uniforms bearing the name "Olympic Athlete from Russia" under the Olympic Flag, and the Olympic Anthem will be played in any ceremony.

"The final decision of course must be made by the Olympic team", he said. By the time athletes arrive in PyeongChang, representatives for the International Olympic Committee said they anticipate that some 20,000 tests will have been done, many of them given to Russian athletes after widespread drug use scandals at previous Games.

Mr. Putin rejected the claims and said the ban was "politically motivated".

Russian Federation has repeatedly refused to accept that a state-sponsored doping program existed.

"I feel for those guys - I consider many of them friends rather than just acquaintances". "As an athlete myself, I'm feeling very sorry for all the clean athletes".


Politicians and athletes earlier reacted with anger and disappointment to the International Olympic Committee decision. In all, it is estimated that more than 1,000 Russian athletes competing in more than 30 sports have been involved in doping since at least 2011.

Mutko said the same thing before the 2016 Rio Olympics when Russia's participation was in limbo over allegations of state-sponsored doping, and did not resign. In its full decision published following the November 24 verdict, the International Olympic Committee disciplinary panel chaired by Denis Oswald has detailed why it disqualified Zubkov and banned him for life from the Olympics.

"With no Russian Federation, will this Olympics be interesting to our continent?"

"For us, the interests of the athlete have always been the priority", Mutko was cited as saying by the state-run TASS news agency on Wednesday.

A national ban is unprecedented in the history of the Olympics - countries have been banned for political reasons and never because of cheating - but IOC President Thomas Bach called Russian behavior "an unprecedented attack on the integrity of the Olympic Games and sport".

Some politicians vented anger, however.

"We all know the athletes who will be going to the Olympics and their uniform will have the white, red and blue colours", Dvorkovich told state media.

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