Russian short track skater Ahn to miss Winter Olympics

By Gabrielle Tetrault-Farber

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian short track speed skater Viktor Ahn, biathlete Anton Shipulin and cross-country skier Sergei Ustyugov are not on the list of athletes eligible for next month's Pyeongchang Winter Games, the Russian Olympic Committee said on Tuesday.

The committee's vice president, Stanislav Pozdnyakov, said in a statement the three had not been included in the pool from which Russian competitors will be invited to compete in Pyeongchang by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

The IOC last month banned Russia from Pyeongchang over "systematic manipulation" of the anti-doping system at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, but left the door open to athletes with no history of doping to compete as "Olympic Athletes from Russia".

"Athletes like Viktor Ahn, Anton Shipulin and Sergei Ustyugov were not involved in the Oswald commission proceedings," Pozdnyakov said in the statement, referring to an IOC commission investigating alleged doping violations by Russian athletes at the 2014 Sochi Games.

"They were never involved in doping stories and the many tests they passed over their careers have showed that they are clean athletes. Nevertheless their names are absent from the list of potential Olympic participants."

The statement added that the Russian Olympic Committee would request explanations from the IOC regarding the exclusion of "national team leaders in a number of sports".

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow regretted that the three athletes were not considered eligible for Pyeongchang.

"We have heard this saddening news in the media. If this decision has indeed been made, we regret to hear it. We hope for clarity in this situation," Peskov told reporters on a conference call.

Ahn, who was born in South Korea, won three gold medals and a bronze at the 2006 Turin Games for his native country but was passed over for Vancouver four years later due to a knee injury and after falling out with his country's skating union.

The 32-year-old switched allegiance to Russia in 2011 and went on to win three gold medals and a bronze at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

Shipulin, 30, won bronze in the biathlon relay at Vancouver in 2014 and gold in the relay at Sochi in 2014.

He could not immediately be reached for comment.

Ustyugov, 25, won gold in the 30 km skiathlon and the team sprint at the 2017 world championships.

The IOC last week reduced the pool of Russian athletes eligible to compete at Pyeongchang to 389 from 500.

(Reporting by Katya Golubkova; Writing by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber, Polina Ivanova; Editing by Andrey Ostroukh/Peter Rutherford)

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