Russia says its athletes want to compete at the Olympics

Russian athletes are overwhelmingly in favour of competing in the coming Pyeongchang Games despite a ban on the national group, the nation’s Olympic committee said Monday.

Sofia Velikaya reported the Russian Olympic Committee’s athletes’ commission, which she chairs, has heard from “all of the athletes in most sports” on the Olympic program, with a majority in favour of rival.

Velikaya reported no athletes have told the ROC they’d rather boycott.

“At the present moment, everybody’s training and everyone’s hoping to participate in the Olympics,” Velikaya stated.

The International Olympic Committee last week barred the Russian group from Pyeongchang due to doping offences in the 2014 Sochi Games, but is enabling Russians to compete under a neutral flag as “Olympic Athletes from Russia.”

Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the government will not stand in their way.

ROC spokesman Konstantin Vybornov said groups from biathlon and snowboard had captured videos confirming their desire to compete, while the men’s hockey team has written “a collective lette”

Some Russian hardliners believe it’s shameful for athletes to compete in the Olympics with no national flag. However, Velikaya defended the athletes, saying everyone watching will know who’s from Russia.

“The selection of competing in the Olympics is strictly individual,” Velikaya stated. “I call on Russian society to take care of athletes’ conclusions with respect and understanding.”

With the IOC because of send out invitations to individual Russians within the next two months, Velikaya said Russian sports officials could put together lists of the preferred teams. Those rosters, she said, would prevent the IOC from inviting “numbers five and six” from the Russian group when leaving out genuine medal contenders.

Russia is pushing back against several IOC states, however, backing appeals by Russian athletes banned for doping in the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

Velikaya also said her commission will ask the IOC to eliminate a state stopping athletes from being encouraged to Pyeongchang if they’ve been suspended for doping before. That affects a couple of athletes using before offences unconnected to the Sochi Olympics, such as biathletes banned for using the blood-booster EPO and speedskating world champion Denis Yuskov, that had been suspended in 2008 after testing positive for marijuana.

Forcing the Russians to compete as impartial athletes places the IOC in the awkward position of regulating how they celebrate.

The Russian flag will not be flown at medal ceremonies, but what happens when a Russian winner takes a flag or a present from a spectator for a victory lap? Can Russian athletes fly the flag out of their windows in the athletes village? Those are on a list of queries Vybornov said Russia will inquire of the IOC.

“A figure skater wins, let us say, and they throw her a teddy bear in Russian uniform on the ice,” Vybornov stated. “She picks it up. Can she do that? Or is that an offence?”

Courtesy: The Globe And Mail