MOSCOW: Russia has apparently decided to play a long game following the decision of the International Olympic Committee to ban its formal participation in the PyeongChang Winter Games next February writes KEIR RADNEDGE.

IOC and PyeongChang had been waiting on tenterhooks for the reaction from President Vladimir Putin, considering he might refuse the permitted option of allowing proven clean athletes to compete under the Olympic flag and bearing an Olympic Athlete of Russia [OAR] label.

Nothing of the sort. Not yet anyway.

Putin, speaking during a meeting with factory workers in Nizhny Novgorod, said: “We will not stop our athletes from taking part in the Pyeongchang Olympics.”

He also found his own satisfaction in the IOC reasoning about institutionalised manipulation, saying: “The important thing is that in the conclusions of the IOC executive board, it is written that there was no government system of doping support.¬†This is an important conclusion.”

However he then added: “If there was no government support, why forbid our athletes to participate under our national symbols? This is a big question.¬†”

Outstanding questions

Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov also said, according to the TASS agency, that there were a number of questions and issues to which Russia needed answers from the IOC before talking a final decision.

The next meeting of the Russian Olympic Committee is scheduled for next Tuesday after which clarity may emerge. The ROC could appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, following up on doping ban appeals lodged by 22 competitors from the Sochi Games.

The IOC has indicated that, if Russia accepted the sanctions then its athletes might participate under their own flag at the Closing Ceremony in PyeongChang.

Also the Kremlin apparently saw no conflict with the senior position occupied by Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko in preparations for the FIFA World Cup next June and July.

A source pointed to a comment by IOC president Thomas Bach that the PyeongChang sanction would “draw a line” under the Russian doping issue. Hence the country would be in the clear four months before the start of the World Cup.