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IOC Clears Nearly 400 Russians to Compete in Winter Games

IOC Clears Nearly 400 Russians to Compete in Winter Games

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) said on January 19 that almost 400 Russian athletes have been deemed eligible to potentially compete under a neutral flag in next month's Winter Olympics in the South Korean city of Pyeongchang.

A statement from the International Olympic Committee on Friday said that from the original pre-registration pool of 500 athletes, 111 had already been removed.

Still, the generous pool established Friday makes it likely that the number could rival the size of Russia's delegation in Sochi - or even surpass it.

That would appear to rule out potential Russian medal contenders like former NHL hockey player Anton Belov and world champion speedskater Pavel Kulizhnikov, both of whom served bans in the past but have since resumed competing. The IOC said that the remaining athletes in the original pool will also be considered for invitation if requirements, such as further pre-Games tests and re-analysis of their stored samples, are met. "This shows that this is a new generation of Russian athletes".

The I.O.C. said Friday that the soonest it could publish the names of the athletes invited to compete would be January 27, following an I.O.C. meeting on the matter to be held in Pyeongchang that day.

The IOC also said it recommended barring 51 coaches and 10 medical staff "associated with athletes who have been sanctioned" for Sochi doping.

Earlier in December, the IOC chose to ban Russian Federation from the upcoming PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games, after an over-17-month IOC investigation "confirmed the systemic manipulation of the anti-doping rules and system in Russian Federation during the Olympic Winter Games Sochi 2014, as well as the various levels of administrative, legal and contractual responsibility". At the 2016 Rio Games, Russian athletes were presumed tainted by their nation's state-backed doping program unless they proved otherwise.

As Pyeongchang's opening ceremony approaches, the unsettled roster of Russian athletes - as well as the friction between sports officials and anti-doping enforcers - has echoed the disarray of the last Olympics. If they win gold medals, the Olympic flag will be flown and the Olympic anthem played. "This chosen group of Russian athletes have gone through the most rigorous testing worldwide".

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