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Russian athletes free to join 2018 Olympics under neutral status — Putin

Earlier, the IOC suspended the Russian Olympic Committee, but cleared a path for "clean" Russian athletes to take part in the PyeongChang Winter Olympics under a neutral flag

NIZHNY NOVGOROD, December 6. /TASS/. Russian authorities will not be impeding the participation of Russian athletes in the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in South Korea’s PyeongChang under the so-called "neutral athletes" status, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday.

"We will definitely not be announcing any sort of blockades and will not be impeding the participation of our athletes [in the Games] if they decide to take part in the Olympics under the neutral status," Putin said.

The Russian president pointed out that many athletes, including those he knew personally, "have been striving for these competitions throughout their lives."

"I also feel concerned for the guys, many of whom I know personally and consider them to be my friends," Putin said adding that all of them will have to make an important decision now.

"Unlike other athletes, Russian athletes will undergo triple checks," the Russian president recalled. "What does it mean in practical terms and how this will be organized?".

Putin said that taking those thoughts into consideration, the authorities will "definitely not impede anybody or ban anyone, or create conditions for their participation to become impossible."

In addition, he said that all current decisions "need to be scrutinized":

"Anyway, the Olympic [Committee’s] meeting will have to take the final decision," the president concluded reminding the meeting was expected in coming days.

The 'doping scheme' 

Vladimir Putin also noted it was important that the International Olympic Committee did not have any conclusions in its recent findings and reports regarding earlier allegations about state-supported doping scheme in the country.

"It is important that the commission’s findings state that there was never a state support system of doping in Russia," Putin said.

"This was a very important conclusion."

However, Putin added, "we are facing a question here why the Olympians were barred from participating [in the Games] under the Russian national flag and displaying the state official symbols, if there had never been a state sponsored doping system in the country."

On December 5, the IOC decided to suspend 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.

The Russian leadership has repeatedly refuted allegations of systematic use of doping in domestic sports and questioned the impartiality of the IOC commission.