Russia's Putin welcomes ruling to overturn Sochi doping bans

ROSTOV-ON-DON, Russia (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday welcomed a court ruling to overturn doping bans against 28 Russian athletes who competed at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech during a meeting with Russian athletes and team members, who will take part in the upcoming 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games, at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow, Russia January 31, 2018. REUTERS/Grigory Dukor

“This, of course, cannot but give us joy,” Putin told reporters of the Court of Arbitration for Sport’s ruling to overturn these athletes’ doping bans and reinstate their results from Sochi.

“It confirms our position on the fact that the vast majority of our athletes are clean.”

Putin added that Russia still needed to continue its fight against doping along with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

“We ourselves have things to work on in terms of perfecting our anti-doping program and policy,” he said. “We will do this in determined fashion with WADA.”

Russia has vehemently denied the existence of a state-sponsored doping program in the country, as revealed in WADA-commissioned reports.

In December the IOC banned Russia from this month’s Olympic Games in Pyeongchang but left the door for Russian athletes without a doping background to compete at its invitation as neutrals.

The IOC cleared 169 Russians to compete, including two-time world figure skating champion Evgenia Medvedeva, but did not invite short-track speed skater Viktor Ahn and other top competitors.

It remains unclear whether any of the 28 athletes whose bans were overturned by the court will be able to compete at the Pyeongchang Games, which start on Feb. 9.

The IOC said earlier on Thursday that the exonerated athletes would not necessarily be invited to compete.

Reporting by Denis Pinchuk; Writing by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Christian Lowe