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Olympic ban sparks outrage in Russia

The Associated Press

International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach, left, and Samuel Schmid, president of the IOC Inquiry Commission, attend a press conference after an Executive Board meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland, on Tuesday.

AFP-JijiMOSCOW (AFP-Jiji) — The head of Russia’s Olympic Committee, Alexander Zhukov, told the IOC on Tuesday that punishing clean athletes was “unjust and immoral,” with the move to ban Russia from the Winter Games sparking outrage in the country.

“Punishing the innocent is unjust and immoral. This completely contradicts the basic Olympic principles,” he told the International Olympic Committee in Lausanne, Switzerland, before the decision to ban Russia from the 2018 Olympic Games was announced.

“Everyone should answer for his sins.”

The IOC banned Russia from the 2018 Games over state-sponsored doping, but said some Russian athletes will be allowed to compete under strict conditions.

Speaking to reporters afterwards, Zhukov did not immediately say whether Russia would take part in the games.

“We will have to discuss this decision,” he said.

Officials are expected to address the issue on Dec. 12.

The Kremlin did not release an immediate reaction.

But all eyes will be on President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday when he is scheduled to speak to his supporters during a planned event.

Putin said in October that both a blanket ban and allowing Russia to compete under a neutral flag would be “humiliation for the country.”

The IOC decision sparked outrage in Russia, with many saying the country was humiliated and others suggesting to boycott the games.

Deputy speaker of the Russian parliament’s lower house, the State Duma, Pyotr Tolstoy said that Russia should boycott the Games altogether.

“They are humiliating the whole of Russia through the absence of its flag and anthem,” he said in televised remarks.

Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said she was with the country’s athletes in spirit.

“Does it hurt? Very much,” she said on Facebook.

“Will we survive? Yes.”

President of the Russian Bobsleigh Federation Alexander Zubkov described the decision to ban Russia as “a punch in the stomach.”

Lawmaker Irina Rodnina, who is a Soviet figure skating legend, apologized for not being able to protect Russian athletes. “How they are afraid of us,” Rodnina tweeted. “Sorry guys.”

Tatyana Tarasova, a prominent Russian figure skating coach, said the IOC decision was “absolutely unjust.”

“This is simply the murder of our national sport,” Tarasova told AFP in an interview.

The IOC announced the decision after examining evidence of state-sponsored doping over several years that reached a high point at the Winter Olympics hosted in Sochi, Russia, in 2014.

Nations have in the past been barred from taking part in the Olympics, notably South Africa during the apartheid years, but none has ever been handed a ban over doping.

Pyeongchang chiefs accept ban

SEOUL (AFP-Jiji) — Winter Olympics organizers said Wednesday they would prefer if Russians competed under their own flag, but accepted as “second-best” an International Olympic Committee ruling which allows clean athletes from Russia to take part in the Games as neutrals.

Russia was banned from the 2018 Winter Games on Tuesday because of a state-orchestrated doping program, but the IOC said clean Russian athletes would be able to enter under an Olympic flag.

“We find it the second-best alternative, albeit not the best, that Russian players are at least allowed to compete individually,” said Lee Hee Bum, chief of the Pyeongchang organizing committee for February’s Winter Olympics in South Korea.

The ban constitutes the toughest sanctions ever leveled by the IOC for drug cheating while still offering Russian athletes who can prove they are clean a route to compete in Pyeongchang.

The decision caught the Games organizers off guard, Lee said in a radio interview.

And it raises the prospect of Moscow boycotting the Games, something that organizers will be desperate to avoid as they battle low ticket sales and concern over North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests.

“We did not know that it [the punishment] would be this much,” Lee said, adding there was a “heated debate” among the IOC members before reaching the decision.

Lee said that he had “unofficially” conveyed his messages to the IOC that he hoped that Russia would be able to participate “in any forms,” but he respected the latest decision by the IOC.

“We accept and respect the decisions of the IOC Executive Board that Russia may compete under a neutral flag,” the Pyeongchang organizing committee said in a statement.

Lee said it was “premature” to worry about a potential boycott by Moscow. “It is too early to predict in advance because it is a decision to be made by Russia,” Lee said.

But he vowed to make efforts to urge Moscow officials to “allow as many athletes as possible” to compete at the Games.

The move by the IOC is the latest blow to the embattled organizing committee, which is struggling to sell tickets as fears grow over the military threat from neighboring North Korea.

Several nations have questioned whether it is safe to send their athletes to the Games, to be held at an mountain resort just 80 kilometers south of the heavily-fortified border.Speech

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