Viktor Ahn

Viktor Ahn
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Viktor Ahn, greatest Olympic short track speed skater, retires again

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Viktor Ahn, the most decorated short track speed skater in Olympic history, has retired for the second time in 20 months, according to Russia’s skating federation.

Ahn, a six-time gold medalist between Russia and South Korea, announced his retirement in a letter published by R-Sport.

The 34-year-old wrote that he wasn’t in form to continue for another season, citing constant knee pain and other injuries.

Ahn previously announced retirement in September 2018, then returned for the 2019-20 World Cup season. His campaign was cut short last fall, however, due to a reported knee injury.

Ahn earned four medals and three golds each at the 2006 Olympics for South Korea (as Ahn Hyun-Soo, a top rival to Apolo Ohno) and the 2014 Olympics for Russia.

Had Ahn continued to the 2022 Beijing Winter Games, he would have bid to break American Cathy Turner‘s record as the oldest Olympic short track skater in history, according to Olympedia and the OlyMADMen.

He missed South Korea’s team for the 2010 Olympics after undergoing four knee surgeries in the 15 months leading up to the Olympic Trials. Ahn’s club team dissolved, and his father contacted Russia’s federation. He became a citizen in 2011.

The International Olympic Committee did not invite Ahn to compete in the PyeongChang Olympics, the only way he could have competed in his birth nation due to sanctions placed on Russia for its poor anti-doping record.

“Not being included on the invitation list does not necessarily mean that an athlete has been doped — it should not automatically cast doubt on their integrity,” Valerie Fourneyron, who chaired the IOC panel determining Russian invites, said after the list of invited athletes was released. “The IOC would like to make clear that there may still be further enquiries and further anti-doping procedures coming up against a number of those athletes who have not been included on the pool of athletes considered for invitation.”

That exclusion prompted Ahn, who had never been implicated publicly in any doping cases, to write an open letter to IOC president Thomas Bach.

“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.

NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.

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Viktor Ahn retires as greatest Olympic short track speed skater

Viktor Ahn
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Viktor Ahn, the most decorated short track speed skater in Olympic history, has retired after eight medals with six golds competing for South Korea and then Russia, according to Russian media.

Ahn, 32, earned four medals and three golds each at the 2006 Olympics for South Korea (as Ahn Hyun-Soo, a top rival to Apolo Ohno) and the 2014 Olympics for Russia.

He missed South Korea’s team for the 2010 Olympics after undergoing four knee surgeries in the 15 months leading up to the Olympic Trials. Ahn’s club team dissolved, and his father contacted Russia’s federation. He became a citizen in 2011.

The International Olympic Committee did not invite Ahn to compete in the PyeongChang Olympics, the only way he could have competed in his birth nation due to sanctions placed on Russia for its poor anti-doping record.

“Not being included on the invitation list does not necessarily mean that an athlete has been doped — it should not automatically cast doubt on their integrity,” Valerie Fourneyron, who chaired the IOC panel determining Russian invites, said after the list was released. “The IOC would like to make clear that there may still be further enquiries and further anti-doping procedures coming up against a number of those athletes who have not been included on the pool of athletes considered for invitation.”

That exclusion prompted Ahn, who had never been implicated publicly in any doping cases, to write an open letter to IOC president Thomas Bach.

“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.

Russian speed skating federation president Aleksey Kravtsov said missing PyeongChang didn’t influence Ahn’s retirement, according to Russian news agency TASS.

“However, it was undoubtedly a huge blow for him,” Kravtsov said, according to the report. “His participation in the [2018] Olympics was initially seen as the last one in his career, which he was eventually planning to wrap up with.”

NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.

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Viktor Ahn writes letter to IOC, asks why he can’t go to Olympics

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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.

Sincerely,
Victor Ahn