Just hours after a Kremlin spokesman said Moscow would take some time to consider its response to the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) decision to ban Russia from the Olympic Games, President Vladimir Putin (pictured above) confirmed that his country's athletes would be free to compete.
"We will certainly not declare any boycott, we will not prevent our Olympians from competing, if they want to take part in a personal capacity," Russian news agencies quoted him as saying during a speech at an automobile plant in Nizhny Novgorod, where he also announced he would run for a fourth term in the 2018 presidential election.
There had been speculation that Russia could respond to IOC sanctions by barring its athletes from competing in the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, which open on February 9.
Following a meeting of the IOC's executive board in Lausanne on Monday, IOC President Thomas Bach announced a series of sanctions against Russia over evidence of systematic, state-sponsored doping outlined in a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) report compiled by Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren.
Bach said that clean Russian athletes would be allowed to compete in Pyeongchang under strict conditions, including the fact that they will be referred to at the Games as "Olympic Athletes from Russia." The Olympic anthem and flag are to replace the Russian anthem and flag during ceremonies. Bach added that no accreditations to the Games would be given to the Russian ministry of sport.
The executive board also banned Russia's former minister of sport, Vitaly Mutko for life and suspended the president of the Russian Olympic Committee and IOC member Alexander Zhukov. The Russians were also slapped with a $15 million (€12.7 million) fine and ordered to pay for associated investigations and fund future anti-doping measures.
Tuesday's decisions followed after a 16-month investigation led by the former president of Switzerland, Samuel Schmid, and the news last month that WADA had judged Russia to be "non-compliant" with its anti-doping code.
pfd/jh (dpa, AFP)