17:00 GMT +316 October 2019
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    Russia’s national team’s flag-bearer Alexander Zubkov during the parade of athletes and members of national delegations at the opening ceremony of the XXII Olympic Winter Games in Sochi. (File)

    Putin Apologizes to Athletes That Moscow Didn't Protect Them Amid Olympics Ban

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    The Russian government will work with international organizations to support Russian athletes who were unable to take part in the 2018 Winter Olympics that will take place in South Korea's Pyeongchang in February, the Russian president said Wednesday.

    Speaking at the meeting with the Russian athletes, he said that sports victories are harder to achieve when politics are involved.

    "This creates very difficult conditions for achieving results. Forgive us for the fact that we were unable to protect you from this," Putin said in reference to the ban on Russian athletes' participation in the Olympics under the national flag.

    Putin also noted that the decision not to allow Russian athletes to participate in the 2018 Olympics was "strange," and said that Russia will keep supporting the athletes in the future.

    "You and sports fans should not doubt that Russia will always act, and will support the ideas of “clean” sport in all senses, in all respects. Sports clean from doping, clean from other off-site issues that are uncommon in sports,” he added.

    The president also expressed the wish that the athletes will pull themselves together and focus on sports victories despite the ongoing scandal over the doping abuse.

    The International Olympic Committee (IOC) Executive Board suspended the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) in early December 2017 over the alleged doping abuse. It then took away the medals from the athletes who had been found guilty of doping abuse during the 2014 Sochi Olympics. The IOC said that only "clean" athletes can participate in the Olympics under the neutral flag.

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    Vladimir Putin, Russia
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