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Elena Nikitina, Alexander Tretiakov
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Russia wants 15 more Olympic invitations, including gold medalists

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MOSCOW (AP) — The Russian Olympic Committee said it wants to send 15 of the 28 athletes who won their appeals against doping bans to the PyeongChang Games.

ROC senior vice president Stanislav Pozdnyakov said “the ROC is now asking the (International Olympic Committee) to send invitations to the Games to 15 athletes no later than Feb. 2,” according to Russian news agency TASS.

The IOC has already invited 169 Russians to compete as “Olympic Athletes from Russia” under a neutral flag.

Pozdnyakov said the 15 he wants to send to PyeongChang include Sochi skeleton gold medalist Alexander Tretiyakov and bronze medalist Elena Nikitina and cross-country skiing gold medalist Alexander Legkov.

Some others, particularly Russia’s top bobsledders from the Sochi Olympics, have already retired from competitive sports.

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Russian flags allowed for fans at Olympics

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MOSCOW (AP) — The International Olympic Committee says Russian fans will be allowed to fly their flag at the PyeongChang Olympics, but organized protests could bring further sanctions.

Russia has been banned from the games but some of the country’s athletes will be allowed to compete in neutral uniforms under the Olympic flag.

The IOC says its ban on athletes wearing the Russian tricolor doesn’t apply to fans, saying this “cannot be prohibited.”

However, the IOC adds that “should this appear to be an organized political demonstration the IOC will take this into consideration in its monitoring system.”

That could mean Russia won’t get to march with its flag at the Closing Ceremony, which the IOC has offered as an incentive for the country to comply with its rulings.

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Thomas Bach: Russian Olympic athlete list made so no ‘negative surpises’

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — Seeking to avoid “negative surprises” about past doping by Russian athletes after they compete at the PyeongChang Olympics, IOC President Thomas Bach explained Wednesday why invitation rules must be strict.

Bach told reporters in a conference call that only clean athletes with “not the slightest doubt or suspicion” about them should go to the Games that open Feb. 9.

It is the first Winter Games since the doping-tainted Sochi Olympics in 2014.

“The final invited list will consist of clean athletes, so that neither Russia nor the Olympic movement will have to face any negative surprises,” the International Olympic Committee leader said.

Six-time short-track speedskating gold medalist Viktor Ahn is among several high-profile Russians blocked from competing in South Korea by an IOC panel that is assessing each athlete’s testing history and potential forensic evidence.

Five hockey players have also been barred, including former NHL players Sergei Plotnikov, Valeri Nichushkin and Anton Belov.

”If such an athlete is not on the list, then this independent panel has serious indications by different sources and by different means,” Bach said.

The IOC has not confirmed any names before publishing a list of invited athletes this weekend, nor has it detailed all the criteria being used by the panel to vet each athlete.

“There could be a suspicion, there may be even ongoing procedures, there could be many factors which did not lead to the satisfaction of the panel,” Bach said.

Declining to discuss individual cases, he did suggest potential evidence from a Moscow testing laboratory’s database is one such factor.

The database trove being studied by the IOC invitation panel covers years of the lab’s work when Russia operated a state-backed program of doping and cover-ups across summer and winter sports.

“This is why we had the (World Anti-Doping Agency) chief investigator Mr. (Gunter) Younger in this group to contribute with his first-hand experience,” Bach said.

Another possible reason for excluding a Russian athlete from the Olympics is appearing on the so-called “Duchess List” of athletes using a steroids cocktail compiled by former lab director Grigory Rodchenkov. He is a key whistleblower now living as a protected witness in the United States.

Bach said that forensic evidence from tampered urine samples — “salt analysis, DNA inconsistencies” — and suspect readings from an athlete’s biological passport could also lead to exclusion from the invited Russian team.

Organizers want to avoid situations “where there are new facts arriving,” said Bach, who wants to avoid altering PyeongChang results and reallocating medals to clean athletes after the Games.

“It is extremely important and this is one of the reasons why we have the widest and the strictest ever pre-games testing program,” he said.

Russian athletes that are invited will compete as “Olympic Athletes from Russia” under the Olympic flag, and in neutral uniform.

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