Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday told his country’s athletes set to compete at the upcoming Winter Olympics that they should ignore the doping scandal and focus on winning.
Putin suggested that sports have become mixed up with politics and apologised for not being able to shield the athletes from that.
“I wish that you do not think about what has recently accompanied the preparations for the Olympic Games and that you focus on the competition,’’ Putin said in comments released by the Kremlin.
Russia was suspended by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) from participating in the Feb. 9 to Feb. 25 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
The suspension came amid far-reaching allegations of doping among the country’s top athletes, including at the 2014 Winter Games which Russia hosted in Sochi.
The IOC has since granted 169 Russians entry to compete as individuals under the neutral label “Olympic athlete from Russia.”
They cannot wave the Russian flag at the event and, if they win, the Russian anthem will not be played.
“We all know very well, and you even better than anyone else, how difficult it is to achieve victory.
“And it is twice as difficult when sports get mixed up with events clearly not related to sports, with superficial circumstances, with politics or something else.
“There are hundreds of thousands, millions, of fans who love you and hope that you win,’’ the Russian leader said. (dpa/NAN)