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Mere suspicion of doping abuse may serve as reason to be barred from Olympics — IOC chief

The statement comes in response to a question why many Russian athletes had been removed by the IOC Review Panel from the invitation list

MOSCOW, January 24. /TASS/. Suspicions of involvement in violations of anti-doping rules could be enough to be the reason for the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) special panel to decline an invitation to a Russian athlete to the 2018 Olympics, IOC President Thomas Bach said on Wednesday.

The Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) earlier provided the IOC with the list of Russian athletes, who intended to go to the Winter Games. After that the IOC Invitation Review Panel, chaired by ex-sports minister of France and the Chairperson of the ITA (International Testing Agency), Valerie Fourneyron, picked up from the list the names of athletes, whom the IOC would invite to the 2018 Olympic Games.

"There could be a suspicion, there could be an ongoing procedure, there could be many factors, which did not lead to the satisfaction of the Panel," Bach said speaking during a telephone news conference on Wednesday.

His statement comes in response to a question why many Russian athletes had been removed by the Review Panel from the invitation list.

ROC Vice President Stanislav Pozdnyakov announced on Tuesday that the national committee received the list from the IOC Invitation Review Panel and it did not contain many athletes, including the team’s leaders such as 2014 Olympic Champion in biathlon Anton Shipulin, two-time World Champion in cross-country skiing Sergey Ustyugov and six-time Olympic Champion in short track speed skating Viktor Ahn.

"The purpose of this is not to sanction anybody or to ban anybody, but on the contrary it is to invite clean Russian athletes and the Review Panel serves (this purpose)," the IOC president said.

"The invitation is a positive sign for these athletes, for the ambassadors of young and clean Russian sport," Bach added.

On December 5, the IOC Executive Board announced its decision to suspend the whole Russian national team from taking part in the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in South Korea’s PyeongChang over multiple doping abuse allegations.

The IOC, however, stated that doping-free athletes from Russia might go to the 2018 Olympic Games under the classification of neutral athletes, or the OAR status, which stands for ‘Olympic Athlete from Russia.’ The IOC reserved the right to the final word in regard to Russian athletes, who will go to PyeongChang under the neutral status.

The upcoming Olympics, which are the 23rd Winter Games, will take place in South Korea’s PyeongChang on February 9-25, 2018.