Kremlin to analyze IOC ban before taking any steps
MOSCOW (AP) The Kremlin needs to analyze the International Olympic Committee's ruling to bar Russia and its sports officials from the upcoming Pyeongchang Games before making any decisions regarding the country's participation, a spokesman for President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday.
Dmitry Peskov said "we need to put emotions aside" and "make a serious analysis" of the ruling before taking any steps. Peskov also said Russia "still needs to answer some questions" from the IOC.
On Tuesday, the IOC said it would invite only "Olympic Athletes from Russia" to compete under a neutral flag as punishment for the country's doping violations when it hosted the 2014 Sochi Games.
Asked if the Russian officials who have been barred from attending the Olympics would be penalized or fired, Peskov insisted that is not a priority and that "protecting the interests of our athletes" is more important.
Earlier, Russian lawmakers blamed local sports officials for not doing enough to stop the IOC ruling. The Olympic body's lead investigator concluded that members of the Russian government concocted a doping scheme at the 2014 Sochi Games.
The most senior official barred is Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko, who ran the sports ministry during the Sochi Games. Mutko is still the head of the organizing committee for soccer's World Cup, which Russia will host next year.
The Kremlin has vehemently denied running a state-sponsored doping program, and state media on Wednesday dismissed the ban as part of a plot to hurt Russia.
Russian athletes have coaches have expressed indignation at the ruling, but also gratitude they can compete.
Tatyana Tarasova, one of the most successful figure skating coaches in Russia, said on local TV that the IOC ruling was "simply the murder of our national sports," adding "but still want to thank the IOC for letting the athletes in anyway."
Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the foreign affairs committee at the Russian parliament's upper house, said the ruling is "clearly part of the West's policy to restrain Russia" but insisted that local sports officials are to blame and "ought to bear personal responsibility" for letting it happen.
Vladimir Poletayev, deputy chairman of the committee on procedures at the Federation Council, went even further.
"All our sports officials, including the Russian Olympic Committee, ought to be personally accountable for the ban on Russia and ought to step down," Poletayev said in comments carried by the RIA Novosti news agency.
Also Wednesday, the Court of Arbitration for Sport said it has registered appeals by 22 Russian athletes against their disqualifications from the 2014 Sochi Olympics for doping.
CAS said the athletes have requested verdicts before the Pyeongchang Games open on Feb. 9. The appeals relate to earlier bans against individual athletes, not the ruling on the Russian team.