Russian Olympic Committee pledges support for athletes

While it denies state-sponsored doping, Russia's Olympic Committee announced its support for the athletes who choose to participate in the 2018 Winter Games under a neutral flag. The ROC urged them to 'achieve victory for the glory of Russia.'

Ivan Sekretarev/AP
Russian track and ice hockey athletes attend a Russian Olympic committee meeting in Moscow on Dec. 12, 2017. Doping-free athletes will compete in the 2018 Winter Games under a neutral flag with the support of the Russian Olympic Committee.

The Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) agreed unanimously on Tuesday to support Russian athletes who choose to compete in next year's Winter Games in South Korea.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) last week banned Russia from the Games, due to take place in Pyeongchang in February, for what it called "unprecedented systematic manipulation" of the anti-doping system. But it left the door open for athletes to compete as neutrals if they have a clean history of not doping.

President Vladimir Putin said last week Russia would not prevent its athletes from competing, dismissing calls by some for a boycott, and a ROC official said on Monday most Russian athletes still wanted to attend.

The Russian committee met to agree its position on Pyeongchang at a meeting on Tuesday attended by sporting figures including the national men's hockey team, figure skaters, speed skaters, and the presidents of winter sports federations.

Announcing the decision, ROC President Alexander Zhukov said: "All participants were of the same opinion – our sportsmen need to go to Korea, need to compete, achieve victory for the glory of Russia, for the glory of our motherland."

Mr. Zhukov said Russia would do its best to support Russian athletes competing under a neutral flag and hold serious talks with the IOC in the near future to discuss the problems and practicalities of the arrangement

"Russian sportsmen have stated their readiness to take part in the Olympic Games, despite the difficult conditions and decision of the IOC, which is undoubtedly unfair in many ways," he said.

In the weeks leading up to the IOC ban, more than 20 Russian athletes who competed at the 2014 Sochi Games were banned for life from the Olympics for allegedly violating anti-doping rules.

Russia has repeatedly said there was no state-sponsored doping system in the country. 

This story was reported by Reuters.

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