Russian president Vladimir Putin will not block any Russian athletes from competing in the Olympics, even though Russia as a country will not be permitted to compete.
The International Olympic Committee handed down a landmark ban on Tuesday, blocking Russia from competing in the 2018 Winter Olympics, citing Russia’s widespread, coordinated doping effort over many years. However, the IOC left individual athletes a lifeline, offering them the opportunity to compete under the neutral designation “OAR” (Olympic Athletes from Russia). Should they win a medal, Russia’s flag would not be displayed, and its anthem would not be played.
Russia continues to dispute the IOC’s ruling, but Putin said at a rally announcing his intent to seek re-election that he would not stand in the way of athletes wishing to compete, nor would the nation boycott the Olympics. “Without any doubt we will not declare any kind of blockade,” Putin said. “We will not block our Olympians from taking part, if any of them wish to take part as individuals. They have been preparing for these competitions for their whole careers, and for them it’s very important.”
“I’d like to tell all Russian athletes preparing for the Olympics in PyeongChang not to get disappointed in any case and definitely not to do anything stupid like a boycott,” two-time Olympic gold medalist Yelena Isinbayeva, a Russian member of the IOC, said after the ruling. “It’s clearly not worth it.”
The IOC is working on “operational guidelines” for how to handle Russian athletes who wish to compete, ranging from uniforms the athletes will wear to flags that fans can display in the stands. At the same time, the IOC is hearing appeals from Russian athletes who were disqualified from the Sochi Games.
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