MOSCOW (AP) — Six-time Olympic gold medalist Viktor Ahn wants to know why he has been barred from the PyeongChang Winter Games.
Ahn is a short-track speed skater who was born in South Korea but switched allegiance to Russia ahead of the Sochi Olympics.
Russian officials said the International Olympic Committee refused to grant Ahn an invitation amid its vetting of the country’s athletes for possible doping links.
“It is outrageous that there is no concrete reason which explains my exclusion from the Olympics, and furthermore people now view me as an athlete who used doping,” Ahn wrote in an open letter to IOC President Thomas Bach.
Competing in South Korea would have been “an especially significant part of my career for several reasons,” said Ahn, who won his first three 2006 Olympic titles while competing for his native country. “I hope that the IOC will ultimately declare their reason for my exclusion, so I will be able to defend my honor and dignity.”
Ahn’s letter was published Friday by the Russian Skating Union.
Asked about the letter, the spokesman for President Vladimir Putin said Russia would support all athletes, whether they take part in the Olympics or are barred.
“Intensive contacts are under way with the International Olympic Committee to clarify the situation and so that the interests of our athletes who are able to take part in the Olympics are completely secured and respected,” spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
“There are athletes who are disputing their rights in a legal context. There are athletes who are appealing to public opinion. There are athletes who are appealing to the Olympic committee leadership. That is their right.”
The IOC hasn’t confirmed which Russians will be invited to compete in PyeongChang and hasn’t explained any individual decisions.
However, it said newly obtained records from the Moscow anti-doping laboratory played a role in the decision-making.
Russia announced an Olympic team of 169 athletes on Thursday.
The list didn’t contain Ahn or some other Russian medal contenders, including cross-country skiing world champion Sergei Ustyugov and biathlete Anton Shipulin.
The IOC refusals for some are separate from the doping bans for 43 Russian athletes because of what the Olympic body ruled was a doping program and cover-up at the Sochi Games.
Of those, 42 launched appeals at the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which is due to rule next week.
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The full letter:
Dear Mr. President Thomas Bach,
Back in 2002, I got my first opportunity to participate in Olympic Games. The present ones in Korea were supposed to become an especially significant part of my career for several reasons. Two weeks before the start of the Olympics I found out that the Olympic movement does not consider me an athlete, who deserves to be a part of it without even providing an explanation.
During my entire career journey in short track, I’ve never given a reason to doubt my honesty and my integrity, especially when it comes to my victories which I achieved with nothing but my strength and dedication. I have always maintained respect to the sport itself, my rivals, the Olympic movement, and I’ve always complied with the anti-doping legislation. I honestly thought that properly completing all the steps to meet the criteria to be a part of the Olympic Games, a “clean” athlete deserves a right to compete there. However, the IOC commission has decided otherwise and didn’t provide me with reasons why so.
I thoroughly went over the criteria which commission utilized when they made this decision. I can honestly declare that I haven’t done anything that would justify putting me on the list of athletes barred from participating in the Olympic Games.
It is outrageous that there is no concrete reason which explains my exclusion from the Olympics, and furthermore people now view me as an athlete who used doping. After all these years in sports, this verdict of preventing me to be in Olympics has become a symbol of mistrust to me from the side of IOC as well as the reason of mistrust from the side of the entire sport community.
I hope that the IOC will ultimately declare their reason for my exclusion, so I will be able to defend my honor and dignity. I have a full right to believe and hope that I have the trust of my supporters, as well as journalists, after my long journey in short-track and with absolute absence of my fault in this situation, when I’m deprived an opportunity to participate in the Olympics.