IOC decision allows 169 Russians to compete in PyeongChang

Today Stanislav Pozdnyakov, ROC vice-president, and Pavel Kolobkov, Russian sports minister, once again met with the journalists to announce that the finalized list of invited Russian athletes was formed by the IOC.

Pozdnyakov: The list includes 169 athletes. These are the people who will defend the honor of our country at the Olympic games in Pyeongchang, albeit as ‘Olympic athletes from Russia’. Unfortunately, despite all efforts, the applications  of some leading Russian athletes were rejected. Our team was thinned out, but I’m sure all athletes who will go to Pyeongchang, understand that they answer not only for themselves but also for their friends who, in our view, were unjustly banned from the Olympic Games.

Kolobkov: This is the official and finalized list. The IOC will send invitations to the Olympic Games to the athletes on the list. However, those invited to the Olympics, will be making their own decisions on whether to go or not to the Games.

— Isn’t there any legal mechanisms to defend the honor of our leading athletes?

Kolobkov: Making its decision the IOC applied 16 criteria, associated with the Duchess List, operating system data, etc. Along with the lawyers we will explore options of challenging these criteria and decisions of the IOC, defending the interests of all our athletes. We are sure that all of them are ‘clean’. But at the moment the list is what it is.

From January 22 the Sports Arbitration Court has been considering the appeals by 42 athletes. The decision is to be made before January 31. Also, for athletes who do not go to the Olympics (by the way, they continue to perform at all international competitions, including world cups, world and European Championships), we will  organize tournaments with the participation of guests from abroad.

Pozdnyakov: We have sent the IOC a request to provide information on each athlete. But the IOC won’t  comment on individual cases. The answer, unfortunately, was given in general terms. We insist that each athlete should receive a clear and intelligible explanation, why he/she was banned from the Olympic Games.

— In fact, even if CAS decides in favour of our athletes, they still will not be able to compete at the Olympics?

Kolobkov: At the CAS we heard that the applications would be accepted until February 5. We are waiting for the IOC to confirm that. We will fight to the last for each of our athletes and hope for a fair verdict.

— Could the Russian Olympic Committee predict the ban of  our leading athletes?

Pozdnyakov: The Russian Olympic Committee was shocked just well as the whole community. While 42 people removed earlier, filed claims in the CAS, and their cases are pending, the decision on to the last group of athletes, including our leaders, was a complete surprise for everyone.

Kolobkov: The CAS refused to consider the claims of athletes of this group, and yesterday they appealed to the Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland. We will use  all legal mechanisms.

— Could we replace the athletes who did not receive invitations?

Pozdnyakov: In consultation with different sports federations, we came to a  conclusion that all our top athletes are to be in the application. Together with those who will not be able to participate in the Olympic Games we decided  that weaker athletes should not replace them.

Kolobkov: After all, these athletes have received quotas for themselves and their country. They have repeatedly been tested by the anti-doping agencies, here and abroad. They have a right to be claimed, and they will defend it.

Pozdnyakov: I can add that 169 is the number of athletes we are applying for, also there is about the same number of coaches, doctors, masseurs. In total our application will include 340 people.

— You say you will fight, however, called this list a ‘final list’. In theory do we have a chance to extend the list or 169 is the final number, and not a single person more.

Pozdnyakov: From the point of view of the IOC, this is the final point.

 Kolobkov: It is a finalized official list, presented by the IOC.

– Please, explain the situation with the hockey player Ludmila Belyakova, who was defended by the Russian Ice Hockey Federation.

Pozdnyakov: In fact, in her case  a technical mistake has been made.

— Can someone of 169 athletes to give up these Olympics?

Pozdnyakov: We do not exclude this possibility. At the meeting most Olympic athletes declared for the participation in the Olympic Games. However, each invitation will be sent individually. So far I haven’t heard that anybody planned to refuse, but we respect any decision of the athletes.

– You said before that athletes who were denied, will receive financial support. Can you give specifics on this matter?

Kolobkov: Yes, we have specifics, but we will report on it next week. We  will gather you so you can  receive this information first hand.

— Have you received words of support from abroad?

Kolobkov: Yes we have. We communicate with representatives of international federations and organizers of the Games. South Korea are waiting for Russian athletes, and they are concerned about us.

— You spoke about the organization of competitions for those who can’t go to the Olympics. It’s like our own Olympics?

Kolobkov: No. There can be only one Olympics. We are talking about conducting a tournament, the timing of which will be agreed with the national federations. Specifically we’ll talk about this later.

— Explain what is meant by the final two criteria of the IOC regarding the use of the ‘additional information concerning individual athletes or staff, provided by the international winter sports federations and WADA informants’. Anything can fit such  definition.

Kolobkov: I totally agree with you. A number of criteria allow broad interpretation. We do not agree with them and will continue to challenge them. Unfortunately, we have too little time before the Olympic games.

— What does the IOC  mean by ‘organized political demonstrations such as flag waving’?

Pozdnyakov: All political demonstrations, including flag-waving are prohibited at the Olympic Games. This rule exists for a long time, and it is not directed against some particular country.

– Can we call the mass disqualification of the best Russian athletes a blow to the reputation of the whole Olympic movement?

Pozdnyakov: Indeed, the current situation affected not only Russian sports. It’s a serious blow to the image of our partners from international federations. Because of the aura of conspiracy created by the IOC around the investigation, now all are confused.

Kolobkov: Now we can talk about reducing the entertainment level of the Olympic competitions in many sports. For example, I can’t imagine the  skaters tournament without this  season’s world leaders Denis Yuskov and Pavel Kulizhnikov. The same applies to the competitions in biathlon and ski racing without Anton Shipulin and Sergey Ustyugov.

— Could the database of the Moscow anti-doping laboratory, which fell into the hands of WADA, compromise our athletes somehow?  

— It is necessary to explain what this document is about. In this database in addition to the accounting data and transport logistics there was manually inserted information about doping tests. It was created by one of Rodchenkov’s assistants and had several access levels. The highest allowed to intervene in the system and change any data. The database existed until July 2016 in such form, despite the fact that in 2013 WADA asked Rodchenkov to restrict access to these materials. Now the question is: is it possible to consider the information from such a database a proof of someone’s guilt? I think not. And we discussed it with the IOC and WADA repeatedly.

— Was there a possibility of a boycott of the Olympic games at some stage?

Pozdnyakov: No one has the right to decide for athletes, whether they go to the Olympic games or not. And they expressed their position in December at the Olympic meeting.