Winter Olympics: Russian neutrals supported by country's Olympic Committee

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IOC president: An 'unprecedented attack on the integrity of the Olympics'

More than 200 Russian athletes could still compete at the Winter Olympics in February despite the country's ban over widespread doping, it has been claimed.

Russia was banned from the Games in Pyeongchang over "systemic" doping, but athletes who prove they are clean can compete as neutrals.

After the ban, some Russian politicians had called for a boycott.

But Russian Olympic Committee honorary president Vitaliy Smirnov described any such move as "a road to nowhere".

After the body gave its backing to Russian athletes wishing to compete, he added: "We made the right decision in the interests of our athletes. This is an opportunity to restore their reputation."

Any athletes from Russia who are cleared to compete at the Games - which begin on 9 February - will take part as "Olympic Athletes from Russia", the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has said.

Russian Olympic Committee president Alexander Zhukov insisted the body was "in no way involved" in doping but had "taken the hit" so that athletes could "achieve their Olympic dream".

He said that a "working group" would meet with the IOC on Friday to discuss in greater detail the criteria athletes must meet before being allowed to take part - adding that "potentially more than 200" could end up being approved.

"It's hard to say say how many athletes will be going because the process still hasn't finished, but according to our data over 200 Russian athletes still hold the licences," he added.

"The IOC will be the ones who determine who goes and who doesn't."

The IOC's banning of Russia on Tuesday followed the conclusion of an investigation - the Schmid report - which found evidence of the country's "systemic manipulation of the anti-doping rules and system".

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.

Russian President Vladimir Putin had already said the state would not stand in the way of those wanting to compete.

He also described the IOC's decision to ban Russia as "an absolutely staged and politically motivated decision".

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