Vladimir Putin allows Russians to compete at Pyeongchang Olympics


MOSCOW (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin won’t boycott the Pyeongchang Olympics.

Putin said Wednesday his government will allow Russians to compete as neutral athletes at the upcoming Winter Games in South Korea.

The International Olympic Committee banned the Russian team as punishment for doping violations at the Sochi Olympics. The IOC, however, plans to invite individual Russians to compete under the Olympic Flag.

“Without any doubt we will not declare any kind of blockade,” Putin said in televised remarks after launching his re-election campaign at an automobile factory. “We will not block our Olympians from taking part, if any of them wish to take part as individuals.

“They have been preparing for these competitions for their whole careers, and for them it’s very important.”

Putin said Russia still did not accept accusations that it ran a state-backed doping system around the Sochi Olympics, and called the IOC ruling unfair “collective punishment.”

Russian athletes, coaches and politicians have lined up to condemn the IOC ruling, but most say it’s better to accept it and compete.

Russian IOC member Yelena Isinbayeva, a two-time Olympic pole vault champion, came out against a boycott.

“I’d like to tell all Russian athletes preparing for the Olympics in Pyeongchang not to get disappointed in any case and definitely not to do anything stupid like a boycott,” Isinbayeva told state TV. “It’s clearly not worth it.”

She said the IOC choice of “Olympic Athletes from Russia” as the official designation, instead of a more neutral tag, decided the issue for her.

Some Russian sports officials have been criticized for not doing enough to prevent the ban, with senior lawmakers and sports figures calling for them to be fired.

Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesman, said blaming officials was not a priority and that “protecting the interests of our athletes” was more important.

Under particular pressure is Vitaly Mutko.

He was Russia’s sports minister during the Sochi Olympics, when the IOC ruled drug-test samples were tampered with as part of a doping scheme. Mutko is now a deputy prime minister and in charge of the country’s preparations for next year’s soccer World Cup.

He was barred from the Olympics for life by the IOC on Tuesday.

“(Mutko) took the country into such a nightmare,” figure skating coach Tatyana Tarasova said, according to R-Sport, accusing him of not doing enough to protect Russian athletes from accusations of doping. “I’m sorry for the people who have suffered because of his incompetence.”

The Kremlin vehemently denied running a state-sponsored doping program. State media on Wednesday dismissed the ban as part of a plot to hurt Russia.

Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the foreign affairs committee at the Russian parliament’s upper house, said the ruling is “clearly part of the West’s policy to restrain Russia.”

But he also insisted that local sports officials are to blame and “ought to bear personal responsibility” for letting it happen.

Vladimir Poletayev, deputy chairman of the committee on procedures at the Federation Council, went even further.

“All our sports officials, including the Russian Olympic Committee, ought to be personally accountable for the ban on Russia and ought to step down,” Poletayev said, according to RIA Novosti.

Also Wednesday, the Court of Arbitration for Sport said it registered appeals by 22 Russian athletes against their disqualifications from the Sochi Olympics for doping.

CAS said the athletes have requested verdicts before the Pyeongchang Games open Feb. 9. The appeals relate to earlier bans against individual athletes, not the ruling on the Russian team.

The IOC is now working on “operational guidelines” that will oversee enforcing restrictions on Russian participation in Pyeongchang.

These include approving a manufacturer and a design of team uniforms, and what Russian symbols, such as national flags, fans will be allowed to use in Olympic venues.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Russian figure skating star iffy on Olympics as neutral athlete

Usain Bolt says he will work out for Borussia Dortmund on Thursday

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Usain Bolt said he will work out for German soccer club Borussia Dortmund on Thursday. At the very least, it will aid in Bolt’s preparation for a June 10 charity match.

Bolt confirmed the date of the training in an Italian TV interview on Wednesday in Basel, Switzerland, after he kicked the ball around with retired soccer stars in front of Diego Maradona and Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho.

“We’re going there to be serious,” Bolt said on Jamaican TV two weeks ago of his trip to Germany. “I want to go there to test my skills.”

Bolt said two weeks ago that his two-day trial will include a public session and a more serious private session. He recently trained three days a week with one of the club’s in Jamaica’s top domestic league, Harbour View.

“I’ve done enough to keep a semblance of fitness,” said Bolt, who tore his left hamstring in the final race of his career at the world championships on Aug. 12.

Bolt added that he could easily make any team in Jamaica’s top division, but that he needs more time to reach a fitness level required to play serious minutes.

Bolt previously said he could easily make Jamaica’s national team, according to Reuters.

Bolt has dreamed of playing for his favorite club, Manchester United.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

PHOTOS: Bolt gets statue near Bob Marley, more Jamaican icons

Ichiro: No plan for 2020 Tokyo Olympics

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Ichiro said he does not plan to play for Japan at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, according to The Athletic.

The 44-year-old noted that MLB players have historically not been in the Olympics and that he plans to still be playing for an MLB team in 2020, according to the report.

Ichiro’s comments agree with what he reportedly said in 2000, the last time he could have played in the Olympics, one year before debuting with the Seattle Mariners.

“As I said before, I’m not interested in the Olympics, and I don’t know what all the commotion is about,” he said in January 2000 at a temple in Kobe where his Japanese team went to pray for victory in the upcoming season, according to Kyodo News.

Baseball was an Olympic medal sport from 1992 through 2008 with no MLB participation. It was out of the Olympic program for 2012 and 2016 but is back in for 2020 only with the potential for future Games.

While it’s not official yet, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said last year that he “can’t imagine a situation” where MLB would take a break in its season to have its best players at the Olympics.

Japan made the semifinals of all five Olympic baseball tournaments but never took gold.

Ichiro did help Japan to World Baseball Classic titles in 2006 and 2009 before choosing not to play in 2013 (when Japan had zero MLB players on its WBC roster) and again not being on Japan’s team in 2017 (when Japan had one MLB player).

In 2020, Ichiro will be more than two years older than the oldest previous Olympic baseball player — South African Alan Phillips in 2000.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: The Olympic All-Star baseball team