14:19 GMT +315 August 2018
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    The Olympic flag flutters above the medals plaza at the Hwaenge Olympic Park in Pyeongchang, the Republic of Korea where winners of the 2018 Winter Olympics will be awarded

    IOC Discriminates Against Russian Athletes - Former French Swimmer

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    French former swimming champion Antoine Galavtine, a gold and silver medal winner in international championships, told Sputnik that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is discriminating against Russian athletes.

    The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has rejected appeals by 45 Russian athletes and two coaches challenging the decision of the IOC to exclude them from the Olympics.

    "As a former sportsman I am astounded with the recent decision by the Court of Arbitration for Sport [on January 9]. It is necessary to punish those who are not clean, but banning athletes with a sterling reputation in sports is discrimination. That means whenever the IOC doesn't like an athlete's nationality, the athlete can be excluded. Even more disturbing is the fact that even CAS wouldn't be able to protect athletes, because its opinion apparently no one takes into account anymore," Galavtine said.

    According to the former swimmer, the court made the decision under pressure. Earlier, CAS had fully acquitted 28 Russian athletes and 11 others had their appeals partially upheld. After the court published its decision, President of the IOC Thomas Bach claimed there was a need to reform CAS.

    "I think a problem [with doping] exists in every country, but what we are witnessing now is an attempt to get rid of those who can win medals. They have decided that Russia won't win any medals this year," Galavtine said.

    READ MORE: Kremlin Regrets CAS Decision on Russian Athletes' Appeals

    He added that, as a high-profile athlete, he would never support doping and has no advice for athletes who have been caught doping, but he supports and feels sorry for clean Russian athletes who cannot compete at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics after training for years. The former swimmer noted that the Olympics is what every athlete strives for; though there are other world championships, the Olympic Games are the ultimate dream.

    What is happening to Russian athletes is very unfortunate, he said.

    "Especially stripping of medals — that is one of the worst things ever to happen to an athlete who trains for five to six hours a day, adheres to the rhythm, tries to cultivate athletic values in others — such as tolerance, brotherhood, et cetera. And then their whole world gets ruined in one or two days, because this whole story contradicts the values they stand up for," Galavtine said.

    He urged all athletes to remain courageous and expressed the hope that measures will be taken soon to rectify the decisions made by a number of institutions to make sure Russian sport doesn't lose ground. Right now, Galavtine said, no athlete can be sure they are safe.

    READ MORE: Son of Soviet Olympic Champion Hopes for Settlement of Russian Olympic Ban Case

    "So if the IOC decides this or that athlete has a wrong hairdo or a wrong nationality, or maybe they don't like an athlete's last name, they can just blacklist this person and ban from performing. The worst part of it is that this athlete, who is clean, who simply wants to show the world what he can do, is unprotected. That's the problem."

    The Olympic Games have just begun. The IOC has so far invited 169 Russian athletes to compete in the games, but a number of leading Russian athletes still have not received an invitation.

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    Tags:
    doping, 2018 Winter Olympics, CAS, International Olympic Committee (IOC), Russia, Pyeongchang
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