Olympics: Winter Games organisers say they will welcome Russian athletes under neutral flag after country is banned by IOC for doping


International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach (left) and Chair of IOC Inquiry Commission into alleged Russian doping at Sochi 2014 Swiss Samuel Schmid attend a press conference following an executive meeting on Russian doping, on Dec 5, 201
International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach (left) and Chair of IOC Inquiry Commission into alleged Russian doping at Sochi 2014 Swiss Samuel Schmid attend a press conference following an executive meeting on Russian doping, on Dec 5, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

SEOUL (AFP) - South Korean organisers of the 2018 Winter Olympics said Wednesday (Dec 6) they would welcome Russian athletes to compete under a neutral flag after Moscow was banned from the Games over its state-orchestrated doping programme.

"We accept and respect the decisions of the IOC Executive Board that Russia may compete under a neutral flag," the Pyeongchang organising committee said in a statement.

"We will work with the IOC and all other relevant stakeholders accordingly to ensure that all the athletes and officials attending the Games as part of this team are given the best experience possible."

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Tuesday banned Russia from the 2018 Winter Games in the toughest sanctions ever levelled by the IOC for drug cheating.

An explosive report by the World Anti-doping Agency (Wada) and two subsequent IOC investigations have confirmed that Russian athletes took part in an elaborate drug-cheating programme which peaked during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

Rather than a blanket ban, the IOC chose a more moderate path which offers some Russian athletes, who have a dope-free history, a route to compete in the Games.