Putin says IOC under U.S. pressure to bar Russia from Pyeongchang Games

By Polina Nikolskaya
Russia's President Vladimir Putin attends a session of the Valdai Discussion Club in Sochi, Russia October 19, 2017. REUTERS/Alexander Zemlianichenko/Pool

By Polina Nikolskaya

SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday said the International Olympic Committee (IOC) was being pressured by the United States to prevent Russia from taking part in the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.

"We are seeing that the IOC is under strong pressure," Putin said at a forum with scholars. "It relies on advertisers, television channels, sponsors, and so on. And these sponsors are receiving unambiguous signals from certain American institutions."

Russia has been under intense scrutiny from global sports bodies since a 2015 report commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) found evidence of state-sponsored doping in Russian athletics.

Subsequent WADA reports found evidence of widespread doping and an institutional conspiracy to cover up Russian athletes' positive doping tests at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

The scandals are jeopardising Russia's participation at February's Olympics in South Korea, which is dependent on the outcomes of a report addressing the manipulation of Russian athletes' samples at the Sochi Games.

The IOC, which is now re-testing Russian athletes' samples from Sochi, expects to make a decision by the end of the year.

Last month the heads of the world's leading national anti-doping agencies (NADOs) called on the IOC to exclude Russia from Pyeongchang over the alleged state-sponsored doping, criticising the ruling body for its leniency.

Russia escaped a blanket ban at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro although it was, and remains, barred from competing in international athletics events.

The country's Paralympic Committee and anti-doping agency RUSADA are also still suspended over the doping scandals.

Despite repeated calls for cooperation with international bodies to help rid Russia of deep-seated doping, the authorities have never acknowledged the state's role in the scandal.



(Reporting by Polina Nikolskaya; Writing by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber, Editing by Ed Osmond)