The International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Friday said it has created a pool of 389 Russians who are eligible to compete under a neutral flag at next month’s Winter Olympics amid the nation’s doping scandal.
An IOC panel whittled down an initial list of 500 to create what it calls “a pool of clean athletes.” That could potentially make it possible for Russia to meet its target of fielding about 200 athletes in Pyeongchang — slightly fewer than in Sochi in 2014, but more than in Vancouver in 2010.
It was not immediately clear why 111 other Russians were rejected. The IOC did not list the athletes who were accepted or rejected, but said it had not included any of the 46 it had previously banned for doping at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi.
The IOC’s decision not to release the names of the athletes or any specific testing data did not sit well with members of the National Anti-Doping Organizations, who have called for more transparency.
“We all want to trust, but history has shown we must verify,” US Anti-Doping Agency CEO Travis Tygart said. “Publish the testing history of each athlete by name, type of test, and we can know for sure if what the IOC says is accurate.”
Former French minister of youth affairs and sports Valerie Fourneyron who is leading the invitation process said the pool also left out any Russians who had been suspended in the past for doping offenses.
“This means that a number of Russian athletes will not be on the list,” she said. “Our work was not about numbers, but to ensure that only clean athletes would be on the list.”
That would appear to rule out potential Russian medal contenders like former NHL hockey player Anton Belov and world champion speed skater Pavel Kulizhnikov, both of whom served bans in the past, but have since resumed competing.
“More than 80 percent of the athletes in this pool did not compete at the Olympic Winter Games Sochi 2014,” the IOC said in a statement. “This shows that this is a new generation of Russian athletes.”
The IOC is to use the pool list to issue invitations to Russian athletes to compete in Pyeongchang after checking their record of drug testing and retesting some samples they gave previously.
The IOC also said it recommended barring 51 coaches and 10 medical staff “associated with athletes who have been sanctioned” for Sochi doping.
The IOC has allowed the Russian Olympic Committee to select its preferred athletes.
Russian sports officials say they simply want to give the IOC recommendations to ensure that top athletes are not accidentally left out in favor of reserves.
The Russians will officially be known as “Olympic Athletes from Russia” and will wear gray and red uniforms that do not feature any Russian logos. If they win gold medals, the Olympic flag will be flown and the Olympic anthem played.
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