Russian athletes are overwhelmingly in favor of competing at the Pyeongchang Winter Games despite a ban on the national team, the country's Olympic committee said Monday.
The IOC, however, stated that doping-free athletes from Russian Federation could go to the 2018 Olympic Games under the classification of neutral athletes, or the OAR status, which stands for 'Olympic Athlete from Russian Federation'.
"I think the International Olympic Committee will make sure that the strongest Russian athletes get the invitations, so that, for example, our hockey team consists of the best players", Zhukov said, adding that 200 athletes could end up competing in South Korea.
This has given the green light to Russian athletes to compete at Pyeongchang 2018 and a decision was made by athletes at today's ROC Athletes' Commission to compete under a neutral flag. He did, however, call the ban a politically motivated decision.
A 17-month International Olympic Committee investigation, carried out by the former president of Switzerland, Samuel Schmid, was tasked with looking at whether or not the Russian government and authorities had played a part in covering up doping of the country's athletes during the 2012 London Olympics and 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.
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"I think that every athlete who takes part in the Olympic Games in Pyeonchang will do everything possible".
"In addition to these six decisions, the IOC Disciplinary Commission has issued a seventh decision in which it found that the elements in the file and the conclusions of the investigations conducted so far were not sufficient to establish an anti-doping rule violation", the IOC statement said.
Athletes would be prevented from displaying Russian flags in competition venues, but that prohibition is unlikely to extend to fans in the stands. Speaking at the ROC meeting yesterday, its president Alexander Zhukov floated the idea of around 200 Russian athletes competing at the Pyeongchang Games.
The report comes after US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley has confirmed on Sunday that the United States would send its national team to the 2018 Winter Olympics due to be held on February 9-25 in South Korea.
Individual athletes could still decide to skip the Olympics in protest, but the ROC said it has carried out a survey that didn't find any who intend to boycott.
The Schmid report was itself set up to look into the findings of a 2016 report by lawyer Richard McLaren, which said that more than 1,000 Russians - including Olympic medallists - had benefited from a state-sponsored doping programme between 2011 and 2015.
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