MOSCOW, Dec 5 (Reuters) - High-ranking Russian officials reacted cautiously to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) decision to ban the country from the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games, while some sports bureaucrats expressed shock and dismay.
The IOC said on Tuesday that Russia had been banned from the Olympics after evidence emerged of an “unprecedented systematic manipulation” of the anti-doping system.
The door was left open, however, for Russians to compete as an “Olympic Athlete of Russia” as long as they satisfy strict conditions that show they have a doping-free background.
Russian authorities did not lash out as they sometimes have against international sports authorities who have alleged the existence of state-backed doping in the country.
Russian Sports Minister Pavel Kolobkov and Russian Olympic Committee president Alexander Zhukov said the IOC decision was “contradictory”, with Zhukov saying it had “positive and negative sides”.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko, who was banned from the Olympics for life as part of the IOC decision, could not immediately be reached for comment.
Most of the indignation in Russia came from the presidents of winter sports federations, who slammed a decision they said was unjustified and demeaning.
“The IOC decision is offensive and insulting. It is completely unjustified,” Alexei Kravtsov, president of the Russian Skating Union, told R-Sport agency.
His counterpart at the Russian curling federation, lawmaker Dmitry Svishchev, accused the IOC of having succumbed to external pressure when making its decision.
“I consider that the IOC’s decision is unprofessional,” Svishchev told Reuters. “I am profoundly convinced that it was made under pressure. Someone needed Russia not to participate in the Games.”
Bobsleigh federation president Alexander Zubkov, who was stripped of his two gold medals from the 2014 Sochi Games and banned for life from the Olympics last month, told Reuters he was shocked by the IOC decision.
“I am simply shocked by what is happening and what happened and by (IOC President) Thomas Bach’s decision regarding our country and our athletes.”
The Kremlin had said earlier this week that Russia had no plan to boycott the Olympics if the IOC imposed restrictions on the country’s participation.
More than 20 Russian athletes have been banned for life from the Olympics in the past few weeks over doping violations at the 2014 Sochi Games.
The bans came as a result of an IOC investigation into allegations of widespread doping among Russians and sample tampering by laboratory and security officials at the Sochi Olympics.
The Russian authorities have repeatedly denied state involvement in doping and pledged to work with international sports bodies to curb the use of banned performance-enhancing drugs in the country. (Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Ken Ferris)