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Olympic ban decision deliberately made ahead of Russian elections — PM Medvedev

December 07, 13:17 UTC+3

The anti-doping situation in Russia has been improving and now it is not worse than in other countries, Medvedev said

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© AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko

MOSCOW, December 7. /TASS/. The International Olympic Committee’s decision to bar Russia from taking part in the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics was made, in part, with the intention of influencing the mood in Russian society in the run-up to the presidential election due next March, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said at a government meeting on Thursday.

"The International Olympic Committee’s decision has one more aspect, which is understandable to everyone, especially in the current situation. This is the political component. This decision was made in the run-up to the elections in our country, the presidential election with an eye to shaping the appropriate sentiment in society," he said.

According to Medvedev, "people abroad are perfectly aware of how important the sports of setting records is for our citizens and citizens in other countries." "Every other year, the whole country enthusiastically watches sports competitions, rejoices and, of course, supports our athletes. This decision was a heavy blow for millions of people here and a real tragedy for Russian athletes, since for some of them the South Korean Olympics is the last chance to compete for the highest sports awards," the prime minister said.

The Russian government will support athletes who decide to participate in the 2018 Olympic Games, as no one is eligible to deny them this right, Medvedev said.

"Of course those who will receive permissions will decide for themselves if they go to the Olympics or not," he said. "Neither sports federations, nor officials are eligible to give them orders, it should be their own choice. As for the government, I would like to point out that we will support any decision that our athletes make," Medvedev said.

Doping investigation against Russia is unsubstantiated

Medvedev has dubbed the investigation into alleged doping abuse in Russia unsubstantiated and unprecedented, saying Moscow will never recognize its findings.

"It’s unfortunate that clean athletes see such injustice, these athletes and our country on the whole have been faced in this situation with an unprecedented episode of unsubstantiated accusations against the whole state, based on evidence of one, let us say mentally infirm individual with clear psychopathic deviation, who committing criminal wrongdoings by himself spreading doping among athletes," he told a government session.

Medvedev also pointed that allegations of a state-sponsored doping program in Russia had no proof. "But they keep demanding that we confess to some programs. This will never happen. We cannot and will not recognize false findings," the prime minister added.

According to the prime minister "all this does not help a fair investigation". He said the IOC commission, led by Samuel Schmid found no confirmation to accusations of a state-sponsored doping program in Russia. "It failed to confirm this simply because this is outright lies in particular as concerns a state system of doping support," Medvedev said.

Government approves national plan to fight doping

The Russian sports did have problems with doping, but the government has taken measures to settle these problems, and this policy will be continued, Medvedev said.

"It is obvious that there were problems with doping in the Russian sports, we openly acknowledged them and launched an active work to eliminate violations. An independent public anti-doping commission was set up, a national plan for fight against doping in Russian sports was approved as well as a set of measures to implement this plan," the prime minister said, adding that major work has been launched to deal with the problem. "Such policy in this sphere continues, and we will continue it irrespective of any decisions," he vowed.

He reiterated that the government had made amendments to the administrative legislation and the Russian Criminal Code aimed to fight doping in Russia. Information and educational programs have been worked out to prevent violations of anti-doping rules by athletes and national teams’ personnel, Medvedev said.

Anti-doping situation in Russia

The anti-doping situation in Russia has been improving and now it is not worse than in other countries, according to Medvedev.

"I would like to point out that the recent 1,500 samples taken from Russian athletes were proved to be clean. It means that the anti-doping situation in our country has been radically changing. It is currently not better than in other countries but definitely not worse," the prime minister noted.

As an example, Medvedev said that some foreign "athletes claim to have various health problems and no one can check that information, but they are allowed to participate in competitions and take various medicines, particularly those considered to be doping." The Russian prime minister added that in some cases, foreign athletes used medicines similar to meldonium but did not face any issues, while Russian athletes were banned for that.

"The definition of doping is rather vague and imperfect but no one is doing anything about that, it is all right with many," Medvedev stressed.

IOC’s decision

On Tuesday, December 5, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) decided to suspend the membership of the Russian Olympic Committee, which bars the Russian national team from competing at the PyeongChang 2018 Olympics under the national flag. The IOC accused Russia of systematic doping violations, in particular, at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi. That said, the IOC intends to observe the rights of clean athletes: athletes who match the proposed criteria will take part in the Games in the status of Olympic athletes from Russia.

Russian officials have refuted allegations of systematic use of doping in domestic sports on numerous occasions and questioned the impartiality of the IOC commission.

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