Mutko: Russia will support athletes going to PyeongChang
Russia will support ‘clean’ Russian athletes selected to participate in February’s winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang, despite the fact that they will not compete in the name of Russia, according to Vitaly Mutko, Russia’s deputy prime minister, who is himself banned from attending the games.
Russian athletes must compete in PyeongChang under the name ‘Olympic Athlete from Russia’, wearing uniforms bearing this name, and competing under the Olympic flag, with the Olympic anthem to be played at any ceremony.
On Tuesday, the IOC also suspended the Russian Olympic Committee, excluded Vitaly Mutko, the former Russian sports minister, now deputy prime minister, from all future Olympic Games, and suspended Alexander Zhukov, the Russian Olympic Committee president, as an IOC member.
However, Mutko (pictured) told Tass: “For us, the interests of the athlete have always been the priority. We supported athletes who decided to compete under a neutral flag before and we are doing the same now.
“We need to do everything to make sure our athletes are not subject to any kind of discrimination, and that they are given equal opportunities.”
Mutko declined to discuss his own ban, saying: “I do not want to evaluate the decision of the IOC concerning me personally. This is not the time to be thinking about myself.”
Mutko was speaking after Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, had said that Russia will not boycott the games in retaliation for the sanctions, which followed a doping scandal that centred on the Sochi 2014 winter Olympics.
Putin said: “We will definitely not be announcing any sort of blockades and will not be impeding the participation of our athletes if any of them decided to take part in the Olympics under the neutral status.”
However, he added that: “It all looks like an absolutely staged and politically-motivated decision. We see this. For me there is no doubt about it.”
South Korea's ministry of culture, sports and tourism said in a statement that it “feels regretful” over the sanctions, but added that it “expects the PyeongChang Winter Olympics to be a good opportunity to further strengthen the traditional friendly relationship between Korea and Russia, and to meet many Russian athletes.
“We urge active participation of winter sports athletes from all over the world, including Russian athletes.”
Meanwhile, in a bizarre incident, hoaxers identified as being Russian apparently spliced together passages from recordings of the voice of former International Paralympic Committee president Philip Craven in a bid to trick Hajo Seppelt, the German investigative journalist who is credited with helping to unveil the doping conspiracy.
Seppelt alerted the International Paralympic Committee’s Craig Spence, who later tweeted: “Very random day. Had a call earlier from someone claiming to be Sir Philip Craven even though I was sat next to the actual former IPC President. Dialled the British number back and it was a Russian voicemail. What’s all that about?”