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Russia rejects talk of Olympics boycott

Russia has no plans to boycott the 2018 winter Olympic Games should the International Olympic Committee (IOC) opt to impose restrictions on the country’s participation, a Kremlin spokesman said today (Monday).

The IOC is due to announce its decision on Russia’s participation at Pyeongchang 2018 tomorrow after more than 20 Russian athletes were found guilty of doping violations at the country’s home Games in Sochi in 2014.

All of the guilty athletes have been handed life bans from the Olympics and stripped of any medals they won at the Games. The bans come as a result of the re-testing of all Russian athletes’ samples from Sochi 2014, although authorities in Russia have vowed to appeal the rulings.

Despite Russia’s inclusion at Pyeongchang 2018 hanging in the balance, Dmitry Peskov, a spokesperson for the Kremlin, today said a reported boycott of next year’s Games is “not being discussed”.

According to the Reuters news agency, Peskov said: “We are against the infringement of our athletes’ rights, the unjustifiable infringement of rights. But at the same time Russia remains committed to the ideals of Olympism.”

Peskov also said that the decision, made by President Vladimir Putin, was aimed at “preserving all possible channels of cooperation and dialogue with the IOC, as well as with other international sports organisations”.

Last week, biathlete Olga Zaitseva was named as one of the latest athletes to have been banned as a result of the re-tests. The 39-year-old Zaitseva, who won silver as part of Russia’s 4x6km relay team in Sochi, is now retired from professional sport, but was sanctioned alongside cross-country skiers Yulia Chekalyova and Anastasia Dotsenko.

The ban came as Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko again issued strong denials regarding the existence of a state-backed doping system.

Mutko, who is also chair of the organising committee for the 2018 Fifa World Cup and president of the Russian Football Union, used a news conference ahead of the draw for the national team football event to counter claims and say that there is “no proof” such a system existed.

Mutko’s comments came after the IOC last week said why it believed organised cheating did corrupt Sochi 2014. The IOC said it believed 2014-dated entries in a diary kept by a Russian whistleblower, some of which implicated Mutko, were “significant” evidence.

Diary entries from Grigory Rodchenkov, the former director of a Moscow laboratory, revealed further evidence of government involvement.