Mutko echoes Putin vow of support for 'neutrals'

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Moscow would not prevent its athletes from competing at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics if they wanted to, Russian President Vladimir Putin said.

The IOC on Tuesday banned Russian Federation from the Olympics after evidence emerged of an "unprecedented systematic manipulation" of the anti-doping system.

Russian athletes have also responded, but focused more on what should happen with coming events than their peers who have committed the doping acts: Svetlana Zhurova, a Russian ice skating Olympic champion, said clean athletes should be allowed to compete as well as be allowed to do so under the Russian flag; Alexei Voevoda, a Russian bobsledder and Olympic champion, said athletes in the past were banned for a few years already, and that banning athletes for life is not in the spirit of sports. "I think time will settle everything down. First and foremost you need to protect athletes", - quoted Mutko "Federal news Agency". "To participate in the Olympics is an athlete's right".

Russian athletes who can prove their innocence of drug cheating will be permitted to compete in Pyeongchang under the designation of an "Olympic Athlete from Russia (OAR)".

The long-awaited International Olympic Committee decision punishing Russia for a state-sponsored doping campaign during the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia, came a little more than two months before the quadrennial skiing, skating and sledding contests unfold at venues in the mountains and along the coast of South Korea.

Russian authorities have never acknowledged the state's alleged role in the scandal but have pledged to work with global sports bodies to help curb the use of performance-enhancing drugs in the country.

Granted, the Russian Olympic Committee was suspended and ordered to pay $15 million to help fund future anti-doping efforts.

"Two-time Olympic skier Holly Brooks told Channel 2 via email that, "(Tuesday's) decision is a win for clean athletes and clean sport. In all, it is estimated that more than 1,000 Russian athletes competing in more than 30 sports have been involved in doping since at least 2011.

"We have not had any discussions, either internally or with our government partners, about the possibility of not taking teams to the 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games", he said in a statement. "I support them", Ovechkin said.

"If you're working with a nation who's willing to go to those ends to have a successful Olympics, that's really sad for me", added the 22-year-old Shiffrin, who is the Olympic slalom champion and victor of the last three slalom World Championships.

Sweeping sanctions allow the regime to say to Russians: "These measures are against you as well as us; they are imposed by your enemies, Russia's enemies".

"We all know the athletes who will be going to the Olympics and their uniform will have the white, red and blue colours", Dvorkovich told state media. Neither Kuznetsov nor Ovechkin, who has played in the past three Olympics, will be in the Russian team after the National Hockey League announced in April it would not halt its season to accommodate the Games.

"It would be the same as if they took the U.S. passport from you, right?" "So it's similar for us, it's everything".

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