Three notable Russian Winter Olympians, Sergey Ustiugov, Anton Shipulin and Viktor Ahn are the most recent to be banned from the upcoming 2018 Olympics, which start in just over two weeks in PyeongChang, South Korea, for their alleged involvement in systematic doping at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) confirmed the decisions on Tuesday, Inside the Games reported.
Ahn, 32, a South Korean-born Russian speedskater (who joined the Russian team in 2011), is the most successful Olympic short-track speed skater of all time with six Olympic golds.
Ustiugov, 25, one of the world’s top male cross-country skiers, placed first or second in all five 2017 World Championships races he contested last year, winning the skiathlon and classic team sprint.
Shipulin, 30, is a two-time Olympic biathlete who helped the Russian men win gold in the relay at both the 2014 Sochi Olympics and 2017 IBU World Championships.
“All three are reportedly among 111 athletes excluded by the IOC after the [Russian Olympic Committee] drew up a 500-athlete shortlist for consideration for Pyeongchang 2018 selection,” Inside the Games reported.
Le Monde reported that Ahn’s samples could have been among those manipulated at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia. The Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) has reportedly sent a letter to the IOC challenging the decisions, which it emphasized was “preliminary,” according to a Sputnik report.
“Athletes, such as Ahn, Shipulin or Ustiugov, were not involved in the proceedings within the framework of the Oswald Commission, they were also never involved in any doping scandals, and all the numerous tests they took during their career prove that they are ‘clean’ athletes,” the letter authored by ROC First Vice President Stanislav Pozdnyakov stated. “Nevertheless, their names are currently included in the list of potential participants of the Games. … As regards all the other items on the agenda of the talks related to technical and organisational issues, a lot of work has also been done, but now we focus, first of all, on the composition of our team.”
If approved by the IOC, the Russian athletes being considered for their eligibility in PyeongChang would have to compete as neutral athletes. If they were to win an event, they would be awarded gold to the tune of the Olympic anthem, rather than the Russian national anthem.
Several Russian authorities have claimed these IOC decisions are aimed to provoke a Russian boycott.
“This is what they [the IOC] want from us,” Mikhail Degtyarev, head of the State Duma Committee on Sport, told Echo Moskvy. “The scenario is to present Russia as an evil, incompetent and isolated country.”
On Tuesday, Ustiugov posted a video of himself doing strength training with a caption that ended with, “the bad news is not an excuse to give up”, according to a rough translation.