Russia says it seeking clarification from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) after what President Vladimir Putin's spokesman called "deplorable" indications that six-time Olympic gold medalist Viktor Ahn and other prominent athletes Moscow claims are clean have been barred from competing in the Winter Olympics in February.
The Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) said on January 23 that short-track speed skater Ahn -- as well as cross-country skier Sergei Ustyugov and biathlete Anton Shipulin, both reigning world champions -- were not in an International Olympic Committee (IOC) pool of Russian athletes who are potentially eligible to compete at the games in Ahn's native South Korea.
In December, the IOC banned Russia from the February 9-25 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, citing its "unprecedented systematic manipulation" of the Olympic anti-doping system. But it said that some Russians would be allowed to compete as neutral athletes provided they meet certain guidelines on doping.
The IOC said on January 19 that it had reduced the pool of Russian athletes eligible to potentially compete to 389 from 500.It said that Russia could begin proposing for specific athletes in the pool to be cleared to take part, and indicated that a final decision on which Russians could compete could come on January 27.
ROC Vice President Stanislav Pozdnyakov said that he discovered the absence of athletes including Ahn, Ustyugov, and Shipulin from the pool during negotiations with IOC officials on January 22, and asked the IOC to explain why they were not included.
He said that "multiple samples taken throughout their careers" had shown that the three were "clean athletes."
Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters on January 23 that Russia was seeking clarity from the IOC.
"We have seen those deplorable reports in the media. We deeply regret if such decisions have indeed been taken. But we hope the situation will be cleared up because we do have contacts with the IOC," he said. "We hope those contacts will help clarify the situation around the aforementioned prominent athletes."
Russian officials deny state-sponsored doping, despite voluminous evidence.
Born Ahn Hyun-soo in Seoul, Ahn won three gold medals and a bronze for South Korea at the 2006 Olympics in Turin.
After falling out with his country's skating union, Ahn gave up his South Korean passport and switched allegiance to Russia in the run-up to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, where he won three golds and a bronze.
With reporting by AP and Reuters