Alec Luhn, Moscow
5 December 2017 • 8:30pm
Alexander Zhukov, head of the Russian Olympic committee, said the IOC’s decision to ban his country would unfairly affect a new generation of athletes who are not guilty of doping.
“They cannot and should not be held responsible for violations allowed earlier, just as they shouldn’t feel like pariahs at a big sporting celebration without national identification, without a hymn, without a flag,” he said in Lausanne, state news agency R-Sport reported.
Meanwhile, Russian coaches and athletes were vehemently condemning the decision and discussing how it could be appealed.
“It’s the murder of our national sport,” legendary figure skating coach Tatyana Tarasova told the state sport channel Match TV. “Of course we will try, we will get through this, we have gotten through worse, but I think this decision is absolutely unfair … We can’t say that doping that one person gave out is government policy.”
Bobsledder Alexei Voyevod, who was last month stripped of the two gold medals he won at the Sochi Olympics, said he would be “proud” of any Russian athletes who boycott the games.
“What Olympics can we talk about if we can’t represent our country?” he during the live Match TV broadcast. “We are a mighty country, and this whole witch-hunt started with politics.”
A supporter waves a Russian flag in front of the logo of the International Olympic Committee
Only invited Russian athletes will be allowed to compete Credit: afp
At another point in the broadcast, biathletes Yana Romanova and Olga Zaitseva, who were stripped of their silver medals from the 2014 Olympics last month, broke down in tears.
“They’re saying that clean athletes should go, but we’re all dirty,” Ms Romanova said.
Sport lawyer Sergei Alexeyev claimed the IOC decision was illegal “because it’s based on the unproven facts gathered by a commission that had no authority” and said Russia should file suit in the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lusanne.
“There’s a doping war going on against Russia, they’re clipping our wings,” he said.
But athletes who still have the opportunity to compete under a neutral flag were more restrained in their criticism.
“The other option was even worse, that they would not let Russian athletes compete at all,” biathlete Alexei Volkov told Match TV from Austria. “It’s sad, but I hope closer to the Olympics our government will do everything to improve this situation a little for the athletes.”
“The main thing is that we will be able to compete, only the colours of our flag won’t be on us,” said biathlete Anton Babikov.