Winter Olympics 2018: IOC approves list of 389 potential Russian neutral athletes

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

A list of 389 Russians who could potentially compete as neutrals in Pyeongchang has been finalised by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

Russia was banned from February's Winter Olympics - and those who wish to take part must prove they are clean.

The IOC says it is "not possible to project" how many would be approved but Russia's Olympic Committee can "start proposing" athletes wanting to compete.

It also defended itself over claims whistleblowers are not being protected.

Friday's IOC statement follows the joint publication of a letter - signed by UK Anti-Doping and 19 other national anti-doping bodies - that demanded the IOC "publicly call" for protection for whistleblowers.

The letter also claimed clean athletes had been "undermined" by the IOC's failure to confirm the criteria it would use to decide which Russians will be allowed to compete at the Games in South Korea.

Whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov, whose revelations of state-sponsored cheating led to Russia's ban, fled to the US two years ago and remains in hiding. In December his lawyer Jim Walden told BBC Sport the IOC had "refused to lift a finger to help him".

In early January, Walden told BBC Radio 5 live that his client's life was under "serious threat".

The IOC says it has "written to the Russian Olympic Committee to make it clear that Rodchenko deserves protection as a whistleblower, which we understand is being provided by the FBI witness protection programme".

It also specified that:

  • A final decision on neutral Russian competitors will not be made until 27 January - 13 days before the Winter Olympics begin.
  • A pool of 389 athletes has been narrowed down from a "pre-registration pool" of 500.
  • More than 80% of these did not compete at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, an event found to have been corrupted by state-sponsored doping.
  • None of the 389 athletes has been sanctioned for doping during Sochi 2014.
  • "51 coaches and 10 medical staff cannot be offered an invitation" because of links to doping at Sochi.
  • Further "pre-Games tests and reanalysis from stored samples" will be required before neutral athletes are approved.
Tweet from US Anti-Doping says it is "classic IOC mumbo-jumbo"
Anti-doping officials in the United States were unimpressed by the latest development

Analysis

BBC sports editor Dan Roan

This news will dismay those who fear Russia got off too lightly for its state-sponsored doping scandal.

Not only will its supposedly 'neutral' athletes in Pyeongchang have the word 'Russia' on their kit and be able to parade as normal at the closing ceremony. Now it seems likely that hundreds will be allowed to compete in - a number comparable to the team at Sochi in 2014. Not quite the punishment many had in mind when the IOC last year issued a 'ban' from the Olympics.

Once again, just like before Rio, uncertainly surrounds which Russians will be at the Games just days before the action starts, and what criteria is being used to decide.

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'Fair and justifiable' to allow clean Russians to compete

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