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International winter sports federations demand explanation behind Russian athletes ban

The Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) earlier provided the IOC with the list of Russian athletes, who intended to go to the Winter Games

MOSCOW, January 25. /TASS/. The Association of International Olympic Winter Sports Federations (AIOWF) sent a letter to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) asking to provide explanations on denial of 2018 Winter Games invitations to many Russian athletes, the president of the world’s governing biathlon body told Norway’s NRK television channel.

President of the International Biathlon Union (IBU) Anders Besseberg said in an interview with NRK that all heads of the AIOWF member federations signed the letter to the IOC.

"I think it is very easy excluding athletes simply because they participated in the 2014 Olympics and this is why I want to raise this issue for serious discussions," Besseberg said. "We have requested information from the IOC about the reasons for declining invitations to Russians, since the list contains the names of leading athletes from various sports."

"This is a very dubious reason for not inviting athletes because of their participation in the 2014 Games if there is no proof of their guilt," the IBU president said.

"After all, we are all trying to avoid punishing clean athletes since we are responsible for their protection."

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.

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, six-time Olympic Champion in short track speed skating Viktor Ahn, many-time world champions in speed skating Pavel Kulizhnikov and Denis Yuskov, and Olympic champion in figure skating’s pairs Ksenia Stolbova.

IBU President Besseberg said he was deeply disappointed after learning that 2014 Olympic champion Shipulin was not on the IOC invitation list.

"It is very sad if one does not have direct proof of his (Shipulin’s) guilt," Besseberg said. "The IBU tested this athlete on numerous occasions and we do not have even a single doping probe that tested positive for banned substances."

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.