169 Russians get Winter Olympics nod as neutrals

MOSCOW • Russia's Olympics officials said on Thursday that 169 Russian athletes have been given approval to take part in next month's Pyeongchang Winter Olympics under a neutral flag.

"At the moment, together with the national and international federations, an application of OAR (Olympic Athletes from Russia) athletes was approved (for) 169 athletes. Unfortunately, leading athletes were not included," Stanislav Pozdnyakov, vice-president of the Russian Olympic Committee, told a press conference.

Last month, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said clean competitors would be allowed to compete in South Korea under a neutral flag as "Olympic Athletes from Russia".

It said last week that the eligible pool had been reduced from 500 to 389.

But high-profile athletes, including the world's most successful short track speed skating star, Victor An, are still banned.

The South Korea-born athlete has been accused in the World Anti-Doping Agency-sponsored McLaren report.

The IOC banned Russia from the 2018 Olympics after the report, which documented a vast Moscow-backed doping scheme in previous Games.

Russians who want to compete in Pyeongchang are forced to pass a unique set of anti-doping tests.

The country will still have several medal contenders, including two-time world figure skating champion Evgenia Medvedeva and defending European champion Alina Zagitova.

Dozens of Russian athletes banned for life by the IOC for doping began an appeal against their suspension on Monday at the world's top sports court.

The week-long hearing at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) includes appeals from 39 Russians who competed at Sochi in 2014 but are now banned after multiple independent reports linked them to doping.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 27, 2018, with the headline '169 Russians get Winter Olympics nod as neutrals'. Print Edition | Subscribe