Kontinental Hockey League ice hockey players could be withdrawn from the upcoming 2018 winter Olympic Games in protest at sanctions imposed on Russian athletes who have been accused of doping.
KHL president Dmitry Chernyshenko, who was the head of the organising committee for the 2014 Games in Sochi, said that the International Olympic Committee is “destroying the existing world order in sports” through its approach to the allegations, with IOC commissions suspending athletes “without a basis of real facts confirming doping.”
Noting that the North American NHL had failed to reach a deal with the IOC over allowing the league’s players to participate at next year’s game in Pyeongchang, Chernyshenko (pictured) said that “the KHL is ready to respond accordingly.”
If the KHL blocks its players from competing in Pyeongchang, it would represent a huge blow for organisers of the Games’ ice hockey tournament.
With the sport’s strongest league, the NHL, already out of the Olympics, losing the Moscow-based KHL, which comprises top Russians as well as representatives of various other countries, would leave the competition severely depleted.
Chernyshenko referred to a recent speech by Russian President Vladimir Putin in which the US was accused of lobbying the IOC for Russia to be excluded from the Olympics and added that his country was being unfairly singled out.
KHL board member Alexander Medvedev told Russian news agency Tass: “The KHL won’t talk about a ban, but about reviewing the calendar. In that case, contracted players won’t be able to go anywhere. Legally, it’s absolutely permitted. If Russia isn’t taking part in the Games, then there’s no sense in having a break.”