NOVOGORSK (Sputnik) — Russia will continue supporting its athletes and will go to civil courts if they continue to be banned from sporting events, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko said Monday.
Russian skiers Alexander Legkov and Yevgeny Belov were found to have committed violations of the anti-doping rule during the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi in 2014 and have been declared ineligible to be accredited for all games after these, the International Olympic Committee said last week.
"What issues can there be with Belov? I do not know, they are absolutely honest athletes. One must be honest, otherwise sports will turn into a political weapon. We will support Russian athletes. If this continues, we will go to civil courts," he told reporters.
In October, the 6th Olympic Summit backed the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) intent to decide in December on whether Russian athletes will be allowed to compete in the 2018 Olympics.
"Look at the Russian sports over the past several years and you will see that [Russian sport] is not the worst in terms of doping. Our system has worked and we have collected up to 14,000 doping tests and disqualified 200 people. The UK Anti-Doping has been testing us over the past two years. Over the past year, according to the report, there were 14 violations of doping rules, and we continue to win [in competition]. We can talk a lot about athletics, but our athletes won six medals at the World Championships," Mutko added.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said in October that Russia's non-admission to the Olympic Games would have a negative effect on the Olympic movement, adding that banning Russians from the Games and then letting them compete under a neutral flag was "humiliating for the country."
The 2018 Winter Olympic Games will be held in the South Korean resort town of Pyeonghang on February 9-25.