‘We have not excluded, but invited certain Russian athletes’ – IOC Sports Director
In a letter obtained by Russian sports website Championat, McConnell clarified the criteria for inviting Russian athletes in response to the International Ski Federation (FIS) president, Gian-Franco Kasper, who had earlier requested an explanation for the absence of several leading Russian skiers from the list of eligible Olympic competitors.
McConnell stated that the IOC “have not excluded any athletes, but instead have proactively invited certain Russian athletes based on areas of consideration, through the Invitation Review Panel and the confirmation of the Implementation Group,” he said, adding, however, that “it is not possible to answer specific questions on individual cases.”
“In regard to the elements of information used in the consideration of the OAR Invitation Review Panel, these had not been made public at the time we received your letter yesterday. This was because the nomination of the selected and invited athletes had not been confirmed by the OAR and the publication of this additional information would only have led to more public speculation then we have already seen.
“Like you, we are extremely disappointed that many of the names became publicly available prior to the selection of invited athletes by the OAR and prior to the subsequent ability for the IOC to confirm these names to you. This clearly has caused unnecessary questions for all of us,” he added.
According to Championat, FIS head Kasper had earlier said banning Russian athletes with clean doping records raised serious concerns and suggested a ban should be imposed only on proven dopers, as otherwise excluding Russian athletes is tantamount to labelling them as such.
Kasper also claimed the IOC’s actions suggested the FIS may have missed several serious incidents involving skiers banned from PyeongChang and that the international sports federations, including FIS, had poorly overseen the doping control of athletes under their jurisdiction.
A total 43 Russian team members received life bans, barring them from competing at February’s Olympics, as the result of an investigation into Russia’s alleged state-sponsored doping violations.
Last week, the list of penalized Russian team members was extended, after the IOC approved just 169 athletes for the upcoming Games, leaving out several team leaders in different sports including six-time Olympic champion short track skater Viktor Ahn, as well as the 2014 Olympic champion in biathlon Anton Shipulin and cross-country skiing world champion Sergey Ustiugov.