‘Get on the podium, raise the Russian flag’ – Khabib speaks on Russia’s WADA ban (VIDEO)
WADA recently hit Russia with a four-year ban from major events due to alleged manipulations to data handed over to the agency from a Moscow laboratory.
The ban was the latest in a series of sanctions against Russia for alleged state-sponsored doping, and means the national flag and anthem will not be present at the next two Olympic Games and potentially absent from the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Any Russian athletes not implicated in any doping accusations will be forced to compete as neutrals.Also on rt.com No flag, no anthem: What the WADA ban means for Russia
Undefeated MMA megastar Khabib is one of his country's most prominent athletes, and while he said Russian officials had “dropped the ball” over the issue, he still said athletes who were determined to display Russian colors should do so.
“I think our officials dropped the ball because they shouldn’t have let this suspension get out of hand,” Khabib said at a press event during a visit to Kazakhstan.
“Some people want [Russian] athletes to boycott the Olympics. I think that’s absurd. People train from 5-6 years old, some from 4, so that when they’re 25-26, 30 they can become Olympic champions.
“And here’s WADA’s interference and politics – these things affect an athlete’s whole life. So I believe that athletes should go to the Olympics and win medals.
“If someone wants to raise a flag, do it on the podium. First win gold then get up on the podium and raise the flag. You’ll get fined, but you’ll still be a Russian Olympic champion."Also on rt.com ‘We'll do everything in our power for atheletes to compete under the national flag’ – Russian Olympic Committee head
Khabib's own fighting future is not affected by the ban, which covers world championship-level events, and the Dagestani noted that as a UFC fighter he is subject to drug testing under the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA).
“USADA didn’t suspend Russia, WADA suspended Russia. I get tested by USADA, because they have a contract with the UFC.
“Since 2015 they’ve tested me 41 times, so I’m clean,” Khabib said.
Russia is set to appeal the WADA ban at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Switzerland, with prominent officials including President Vladimir Putin suggesting that political motives lie behind the decision to sanction the country.Also on rt.com ‘It’s just a method to neutralize strong competitors from Russia’ – Putin on WADA ban
You can watch Khabib's answer in full at the top of the page.