Russian skater cleared by IOC refuses to go to Olympics without banned teammates

Russian skater cleared by IOC refuses to go to Olympics without banned teammates
Two-time Olympic bronze medalist Olga Graf, one of the few Russian skaters “invited” to compete in PyeongChang, has refused to go, saying her medal hopes were quashed after her teammates were snubbed.

“I’m glad that the IOC commission found me a clean athlete, which I am, but it’s a shame that more than half of the speed skating team members, who, I have no doubt, are also clean, were not invited,” the 34-year-old skater said in a statement, as cited by Sputnik.

Graf said that although she disapproved of the IOC’s decision to ban Russia from the Olympics and only allow athletes from Russia to compete as neutrals under the Olympic flag, she was still dreaming of winning another medal and had initially planned on competing.

“However, late January, we found out that the majority of our Olympic skating team members would not be able to compete at the Olympics, meaning all my hopes to get on the podium are not to be realized, because sport has become collateral damage in the dirty political games,” Graf added.

She noted that her main focus in the upcoming Olympics would have been in the women’s team pursuit, for which she has been training for years.
“It was the team pursuit event where I had hoped to bring Russia a medal,” Graf said. However, since the IOC has not invited enough skaters to make a three-member team, there is no point for her to go.

After her success at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, Graf and her teammates took bronze at three consecutive world championships, in 2015, 2016, and 2017.
Only three Russian female skaters were cleared for PyeongChang, including Graf. 

The IOC sends personal invitations to “individual” Russian athletes it deems fit to compete in accordance with 17 criteria based on the findings of investigations into alleged Russian doping violations carried out by Denis Oswald and Richard McLaren. Although many Russian athletes are appealing the snubs to the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS), there is little chance for them to succeed since the IOC does not technically ban athletes, but rather chooses to not invite them.

Graf, who won bronze in the 3,000-meter event and the women’s team pursuit at the Sochi Olympics, became one of 169 Russian athletes greenlighted to compete by the IOC, a far cry from the 500 athletes in the original application submitted by the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC).

The list of approved athletes is missing many of Russia’s greatest medal hopefuls, including six-time Olympic gold medalist in short track skating Viktor Ahn, world cross-country skiing champion Sergey Ustiugov, and Olympic biathlon champion Anton Shipulin.

While many Russian teams have been depleted, Graf is the first athlete to publicly announce her refusal to take part in the Games.