Putin: Russians not prevented from competing at Winter Olympics under neutral flag

Russian President Vladimir Putin looks on during an interview in Sochi on Jan. 19 2014 before his country hosted the Winter Olympics. Russia has banned from the 2018 Games for doping

Though Russian Olympians will not be allowed to compete under their flag, Putin said that he will not prevent athletes from competing in a "personal capacity" in the upcoming Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

In response, the IOC this week suspended the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC), banned all ROC officials from the Winter Games to be held in South Korea in February, and will only allow invited Russian athletes to compete under the Olympic flag (i.e., not as representatives of their country).

The International Olympic Committee made a decision to ban the Russian federation as punishment for widespread doping Olympic officials believe was supported by the government.

A presidential spokesmen dismissed the charges as a "groundless crackdown", and Putin had earlier called the prospect of Russian athletes competing as neutrals without a national team "humiliating". "It's not the time to think of myself". "First and foremost you need to protect athletes", - quoted Mutko "Federal news Agency". According to him, participation at the Olympic games is the right athlete, which should be respected and supported.

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Russian authorities have vehemently denied any state support for doping and pledged to cooperate with worldwide sports authorities to counter the use of banned performance-enhancing drugs.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced the decision after finding that Russian authorities knowingly doped their athletes during 2014 winter games in Sochi.

The South Korean sports ministry urged Russian athletes to compete as neutrals following IOC's unprecedented ban, saying in a statement it had "worked hard over the past seven years to make meticulous preparations" for a peaceful and harmonious Games. That report, released in November 2015, concluded that Russian Federation had cheated and had effectively "sabotaged" the 2012 London Olympic Games. "We all see this, for me there is no doubt about it", he said. In all, it is estimated that more than 1,000 Russian athletes competing in more than 30 sports have been involved in doping since at least 2011. "I'm pretty sure they are going and I'm going to cheer for them". "I have not heard anything about that, but I do know in the talks that we have - whether it's Jerusalem or North Korea - it's about, how do we protect the U.S. citizens in the area?"

"They've been working and training to be able to represent their country", said Jess Schultz, an Olympic curler from Anchorage. Since they will not be competing under ROC auspices, their uniforms can not bear the Russian flag, and the Olympic anthem, rather than the Russian one, will be played for them if they place in the top three. Neither Kuznetsov nor Ovechkin, who has played in the past three Olympics, will be in the Russian team after the National Hockey League announced in April it would not halt its season to accommodate the Games. "I really feel for them", he said of the athletes in the Russian team. A day later, President Vladimir Putin half-heartedly denounced the ban as "politically motivated", gave cover to all those athletes who "wish to take part as individuals", but left it at that.

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