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Russian Deputy PM Mutko says bewildered with IOC’s decision to ban two Russian skiers

November 01, 20:59 UTC+3 MOSCOW

The IOC slapped with life bans Alexander Legkov and Evgeniy Belov over doping abuse accusations

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MOSCOW, November 1. /TASS/. A decision of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to ban for life two Russian cross country skiers, Alexander Legkov and Evgeniy Belov, is bewildering and raises concerns, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko told TASS on Wednesday.

The IOC slapped with life bans two Russian cross-country skiers, Alexander Legkov and Evgeniy Belov, over doping abuse accusations and ruled to annul their results from the 2014 Winter Olympics.

"This decision is alarming and bewildering," Mutko, who oversees the issues of sports, tourism and youth affairs in the Russian government, said in an interview with TASS. "An athlete, who had been in sports for many years, earned great reputation and never had positive (doping test) results, is now completely defenseless in view of collateral evidence (scratches on doping sample bottles)."

"The correct and most natural response (to the IOC’s decision) will be to file an appeal with the Court of Arbitrations for Sport," Mutko said. "They both (Legkov and Belov) will be provided with all the necessary assistance."

According to the statement from the IOC on Wednesday, Russia’s Legkov, "is disqualified from the events in which he participated upon the occasion of the XXII Olympic Winter Games in Sochi" and will be stripped of all awards he won in "the Men's 50km Cross Country Skiing Event, in which he ranked 1st," as well as in "the Men's 4x10km Cross Country Skiing Event, in which he ranked 2nd."

The global Olympic body stated also that the whole Russian cross country skiing squad was "disqualified from the Men's 4x10km Cross Country Skiing Event" in Sochi due to Legkov’s disqualification.

"The corresponding medals, medalist pins and diplomas are withdrawn and shall be returned to the International Olympic Committee," the statement said.

Elena Vyalbe, the president of the Russian Cross Country Ski Federation, told TASS commenting on the issue that the federation was shocked with the IOC decision regarding the two Russian skiers.

"I would rather abstain from making commentaries regarding the rest of the skiers at the issue," Vyalbe said in an interview with TASS. "All I can say that we have received the news, which shocked us all. We are already filing appeals with the CAS."

Last year on December 23, the FIS slapped provisional suspensions on six Russian cross-country skiers over alleged violations of anti-doping rules at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi.

The athletes subjected to the provisional suspensions were four male skiers, namely Alexander Legkov, Maxim Vylegzhanin, Yevgeny Belov and Alexey Petukhov and two female skiers - Julia Ivanova and Evgenia Shapovalova. The decision was made in the wake of the infamous McLaren Report.

According to Part Two of the report, delivered in early December, 2016 in London by the WADA Independent Commission and its chairman, Canadian sports law professor Richard McLaren, more than 1,000 Russian athletes competing in summer, winter and Paralympic sports could have been involved in an alleged manipulation scheme to conceal positive doping tests.

Part Two of McLaren’s report claimed in particular that doping samples of 12 Russian medalists of 2014 Winter Games in Sochi had been tampered with. In addition, doping tests of two more Russian athletes, who won four gold medals of the 2014 Sochi Olympics, had been falsified as well.

Earlier this year in May, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ruled to uphold the provisional suspensions of six Russian cross country skiers rejecting their appeals.

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