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Russian Olympic body approves athletes competing under neutral flag

Russian Olympic Committee president Alexander Zhukov answers reporters during a press conference in Moscow on December 12, 2017 during a meeting to decide how to respond to IOC ban on Russia participating in the Winter Games © AFP / Alexander NEMENOV

MOSCOW, Russian Federation, Dec 12The Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) on Tuesday gave a green light for its athletes to compete under a neutral flag at the 2018 Winter Olympics despite a ban on the country’s national team.

“We all had the same opinion: our athletes need to go to South Korea and try to bring back a victory for Russia. Russian athletes have expressed their will to take part in the games,” the ROC president Alexander Zhukov, who is suspended from the IOC, told a press-conference in Moscow.

The ROC “will respect the will of every athlete. The ROC will take all necessary measures for financial, legal and sport-related assistance for those who will take part in the games and those who will be refused or will not receive an invitation”, Zhukov added.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) last week decided to ban Russia from the 2018 Games, from February 9-25, over accusations of a state-sponsored doping programme at the 2014 Sochi Games.

It said it would only allow “clean” Russian athletes to participate under strict conditions and under the Olympic flag.

Zhukov said the Russian Olympic Committee will send a delegation to Lausanne, Switzerland, on December 15 to discuss the conditions for the admission of Russian athletes who would take part in the Games as “Olympic Athletes from Russia”.

He said around 200 Russian athletes could compete in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said in October that it would be a “humiliation” for Russian athletes to compete under the Olympic flag.

But he subsequently softened his stance the day after the IOC decision, saying Russia would not boycott the Games and would not stand in the way of athletes who hope to compete as neutral individuals.

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