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Russian Skater Decries 'Outrageous' IOC Decision, Demands Explanation

Russia -- Skater Viktor Ahn
Russia -- Skater Viktor Ahn

Six-time Olympic champion Viktor Ahn has demanded an explanation from the International Olympic Committee as to why he was barred from competing at the Winter Games next month in Pyeongchang.

The short-track speed skater, who was born in South Korea but has competed for Russia since the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, said in an open letter to IOC chief Thomas Bach on January 26 that it was "outrageous" he was included among 111 Russians who were ruled out of competing as neutral athletes at the February 9-25 Games.

"During my entire career journey in short track, I’ve never given a reason to doubt my honesty and my integrity, especially when it comes to my victories which I achieved with nothing but my strength and dedication," Ahn said in the letter published on the website of the Russian skating federation.

In December, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) banned Russia from the Games in Pyeongchang citing its "unprecedented systematic manipulation" of the Olympic anti-doping system.

Potentially Eligible

However, it said that some Russians would be allowed to compete in neutral uniforms under the Olympic flag and with the designation of Olympic Athlete from Russia (OAR) provided that they met certain guidelines on doping.

Last week, the IOC said that it had reduced the pool of Russian athletes eligible to potentially compete to 389 from 500 and indicated that a final decision on which Russians may compete could come on January 27.

Ahn, who was one of the 111 excluded from consideration, said the move was "a symbol of mistrust" and that he wanted a reason so he could defend his "honor and dignity.”

"It is outrageous that there is no concrete reason which explains my exclusion from the Olympics, and furthermore people now view me as an athlete who used doping," he wrote in the letter.

Ahn won three short-track Olympic gold medals in Sochi after he became a Russian citizen. Before that, he won three gold medals at the 2006 Games in Turin for South Korea competing under his birth name, Ahn Hyun Soo.