Wednesday , December 13 2017

Olympic ban sparks outrage in Russia – Russian sports fans sad about ban

MOSCOW, Dec 6, (AFP): 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 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 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, apologised for not being able to protect Russian athletes. “How they are afraid of us,” Rodnina tweeted. “Sorry guys.”

Confused and dejected, Russian sports fans expressed their disappointment Tuesday over the International Olympic Committee’s decision to ban the country from the 2018 Winter Games.

The move, punishing Russia for its state-orchestrated doping programme, will allow clean athletes to compete under an Olympic flag — but few are likely to accept, according to drinkers at Dark Patrick’s pub, a sports bar in central Moscow.

“There has been doping. Everyone does it and it has always happened, that’s clear. But it’s important to know whether this was a doping system organised by the state. In my opinion, it hasn’t been proven,” one retired patron who gave his name as Nikolai told AFP.

News of the sanction — the toughest ever levelled by the IOC for drug cheating — came just 65 days ahead of the Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

“Only a small number of athletes will accept competing under a neutral flag,” said Nikolai.

“If they do it, they won’t use the state’s money, so they will have to find a sponsor,” the 67-year-old added, before describing another possible problem posed by the decision: “How does a hockey team play under a neutral flag? What will be written on their bibs?”

His friend Mikhail, who is of the same age and also retired, said he was “sad” about the ban, which followed an explosive report confirming that Russian athletes took part in an elaborate drug cheating programme that peaked during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

“The situation should not have taken this turn,” he said.

However, living in a country where winter sports are highly popular, especially ice hockey and biathlon — a combination of cross-country skiing and rifle shooting — Mikhail does not intend to forgo watching the games, even without the Russians.

“I watched the Sochi games non-stop. Of course I’m going to watch these ones,” he said.

The report by the World Anti-doping Agency (WADA) and two subsequent IOC investigations came amid mounting evidence indicating that the doping scheme involved senior government officials, including from the sports ministry, with help from secret agents.

 

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