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Bach regards ban on Russia as just reflecting reality

Xinhua,December 07, 2017 Adjust font size:

By Sportswriter Su Bin

LAUSANNE, Switzerland, Dec. 7 (Xinhua) -- For Thomas Bach, President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the decision to ban Russian participation in the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang was not a compromise.

The IOC Executive Board on Tuesday decided to suspend the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) with immediate effect, while inviting individual Russian athletes under strict conditions to the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018, wearing a uniform bearing the name "Olympic Athlete from Russia (OAR)" and competing under the Olympic Flag with the Olympic Anthem played in any ceremony.

"This is not a compromise, but just reflecting the reality," commented the IOC head at a press conference here following the conclusion of IOC Executive Board.

"I was at the IAAF World Championships in London, and saw athletes participating under the name of 'Authorized Neutral Athletes'. Everybody in the stadium and the media spoke about the Russian athletes. This determination just reflected the reality, and this was maybe where the thought process started," he said.

Bach thought the IOC Executive Board made the decision in a "free" manner.

"We have made it clear at different occasions that the IOC Executive Board will take free decision, and will not accept any kind of pressure from either side.

"Due process has been completed only yesterday, and after this we've been taking this decision after a very thorough discussion in the IOC Executive Board following the evidence provided by the Schmid Commission," Bach commented.

"The responsibilities with regard to the laboratory are very clear. The laboratory has to be accredited by WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency), and this is the authority of WADA and WADA only.

"ROC has been suspended following the Schmid Report which related to their responsibilities at the Sochi Winter Olympic Games and the host city contract. The responsibilities was explained clearly by the Schmid Report.

"WADA is working with RUSADA to make sure that Russian Anti-Doping Agency is compliant again and can guarantee reliable tests for Russian athletes. WADA's procedure remained unaffected by the IOC decision," he added.

The IOC imposed life ban on 22 Russian athletes and stripped 11 medals of Sochi Winter Olympics following recent investigation into systematic manipulation in anti-doping in Russia.

"I feel really sorry for the athletes who have suffered from this manipulation and have been deprived of their Olympic moments," Bach told reporters.

Bach also emphasized that the IOC will do its part to accelerate the medals' reallocation.

"This is why we are cooperating here with the IOC Athletes Commission to find ways how we can make up for their loss of these unique moments.

"We are doing from our side everything that we can to speed up this procedure. The IOC will be ready to bundle some of these cases and to bring it there to CAS (Court of Arbitration for Sport) for decision as soon as possible, it is one of the options we have.

"But of course we have to respect the rights of athletes going to court and their appeal to these decisions," he admitted.

Bach added that the other option was to turn to athletes and ask them about their preferred solutions, such as ceremony at the Olympic Museum in Lausanne or at a major sporting event.

"When we have the final CAS decisions, then we will plan to organize a dignified medal ceremony, invite the athletes to enjoy the Games for a couple of days, and enjoy the medal ceremony," he said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier said that Russia will not boycott the PyeongChang Winter Olympics.

Bach replied, "I hope and I am confident that clean Russian athletes will seize this opportunity to participate in the Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang to represent a new generation of clean Russian athletes at the Games."

"If the IOC invited athletes, then it would cover their travel costs, and these athletes would be treated like any other Olympic athlete. They would enjoy their free accommodation, meals and support of their personnel in Olympic village and competition venues," Bach added.

As for the Executive Board's decisions, the IOC may partially or fully lift the suspension of the ROC from the commencement of the Closing Ceremony of the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 provided these decisions are fully respected and implemented by the ROC and by the invited athletes and officials.

"We have this clause in the decision, if fully applied and accepted. It could draw a line under the episode in the Olympic history. After somebody had his sanctions done, then he would be welcomed back to the Olympic Games and the Olympic movement.

"The closing ceremony could be the signal that Russia has accepted and respected the sanction, then we can look into the future of clean sport in Russia with these clean athletes from Russia. So far this could be really a strong message for beginning," said Bach. Enditem