Russia announces 169-athlete Olympics delegation despite being 'banned' for doping scandal

Russia intends to send two-time world figure skating champion Evgenia Medvedeva to PyeongChang. (AP)

In December, the International Olympic Committee announced that it was barring Russia from competing in the upcoming PyeongChang Olympic Winter Games because of a state-sponsored doping scandal dating back to the 2014 Sochi Games.

On Thursday, Russia announced its intent to send 169 athletes to compete in PyeongChang next month.

The IOC allowed for exceptions at the time of the ban. Athletes who intended to compete despite the ban would not be allowed to do so under the Russian flag, but as individual Olympic athletes from Russia (OAR). The idea was not to punish clean athletes for the sins of their parent country.

“The IOC EB [executive board], after following due process, has issued proportional sanctions for this systemic manipulation while protecting the clean athletes,” IOC president Thomas Bach said at the time.

By comparison, Russia fielded a team of 232 athletes as it hosted the Sochi Games and sent 177 athletes to Vancouver in 2010. A team of 169 athletes would have been the fourth largest delegation in Sochi, trailing only Canada, the United States and Russia.

Russia’s Thursday announcement comes on the heels of the IOC clearing almost 400 Russian athletes to compete last week.

“More than 80 percent of the athletes in this pool did not compete at the Olympic Winter Games Sochi 2014,” the IOC said in a statement looking to create separation of this year’s approved athletes from the tainted pool of players at the Sochi Games.

Russians competing in Pyeongchang will do so as “Athletes from Russia.” (Reuters)

The IOC did not name names when announcing the number of Russian athletes that had been cleared, so it is not yet known if the 169 names Russia announced on Thursday match up with the IOC’s list.

Russian officials downplayed the number of athletes on Thursday, but instead focused on the quality of the proposed delegation, noting that many of its best athletes did not make the cut.

“Unfortunately, our top athletes did not make it onto this list,” vice president of the Russian Olympic Committee Stanislav Pozdnyako told reporters. “Those 169 people are those who will defend our country’s honor at the Pyeongchang Olympic Games.”

Short-track speed skater Viktor Ahn, biathlete Anton Shipulin and cross-country skier Sergei Ustyugov are among the prominent names not included on the list. Two-time world figure skating champion Evgenia Medvedeva and defending European champion Alina Zagitova, however, are included.

The IOC’s final announcement on which Russian athletes will be allowed to compete — basically, who on Russia’s list matches up with theirs —  is expected on Saturday. The PyeongChang Games start on Feb. 8.

“We will fight for every last athlete,” ROC sports minister Pavel Kolobkov said. “We are really hoping for a fair decision by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.”

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