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International Fencing Chief, A Russian Oligarch, Protests Olympics Ban On Russia

Russian oligarch Alisher Usmanov (R) with Russian President Vladimir Putin in July
Russian oligarch Alisher Usmanov (R) with Russian President Vladimir Putin in July

A leading Russian sports official has urged the International Olympic Committee to reconsider its ban on the country participating in the Pyeongchang Olympics.

Alisher Usmanov, the president of the International Fencing Federation, said on December 8 that the ban contradicts "the principles of the Olympic movement" as well as the legal principle of "No guilt, no punishment."

By banning some innocent athletes as well as guilty ones, the ban "violates the basic human rights and undermines the trust in law and justice," said the Uzbekistan-born oligarch, who is a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a letter to the IOC's executive board.

Although the IOC provided an avenue for drug-free Russian athletes to compete at the games, which run from February 9 to 25, Usmanov said the plan "puts clean Russian athletes on an uneven playing field with athletes from other countries."

The IOC board is chaired by President Thomas Bach, who was an Olympic gold medalist in fencing.

Bach strongly endorsed sanctions this week on Russia for what the IOC said was organized doping in Russia at the 2014 Sochi Games.

Under the restrictions set out by the IOC, only Russians with no history of doping who are invited by an IOC-appointed panel will be allowed to compete at the games as an "Olympic Athlete from Russia," in a neutral uniform and without their flag or anthem.

But Usmanov said the IOC should let Russians who win gold medals at the games "reach the summit of their dream and see the flag of their motherland in Pyeongchang's sky."

Based on reporting by AP and AFP