Russian Olympic Committee approves athletes competing as neutrals at Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in 2018

Governing body confirms athletes will take part under the Olympic flag following IOC banning national team for doping at 2014 Sochi Games

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 December, 2017, 7:31pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 December, 2017, 9:27pm

The Russian Olympic Committee formally gave its blessing on Tuesday for the country’s athletes to compete under a neutral flag at the upcoming Pyeongchang Games.

Under International Olympic Committee sanctions announced last week in response to Russian doping at the 2014 Sochi Games, Russians will compete under the Olympic flag as “Olympic Athletes from Russia.”

“The opinion of all taking part was united, and that was that our athletes need to go to South Korea, compete and win,” ROC president Alexander Zhukov said after the organisation held a closed congress on Tuesday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin gave his backing last week. Some Russians will formally be invited by the IOC to compete as individual athletes, though the ROC will submit rosters of its preferred teams.

“I think the IOC will make sure that the strongest Russian athletes get the invitations, so that, for example, our hockey team consists of the best players,” Zhukov said, adding that 200 athletes could end up competing in South Korea.

The ROC’s approval, however, doesn’t mean Russia is abandoning legal challenges against the IOC sanctions, Zhukov said.

Twenty-five athletes have been banned for doping at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, all of whom have filed appeals to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. IOC rules bar Russians from Pyeongchang if they have previously served doping bans.

IOC bans Russia from Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics for state-sponsored doping

Russia national hockey team captain Ilya Kovalchuk welcomed the ROC’s approval, saying it would calm athletes after a period of turmoil.

“Thank god it’s all behind us and we’re going to the Olympics,” Kovalchuk said.