IOC ‘banned best Russian athletes, doesn’t want Russia to perform well’ – skiing coach Markus Cramer

The International Olympic Committee’s decision to ban leading Russian athletes from the 2018 Winter Games without any proof might be an “unfair” attempt to degrade Russia, according to Markus Cramer, the Russian skiing team coach.

“That decision was taken without any evidence by the IOC,” Cramer told RT’s video agency Ruptly, referring to the Olympic body’s decision to exclude some leading Russian athletes.

The athletes were on a special list previously filed to the IOC by the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC). On December 23, the IOC Invitation Review Panel excluded 111 of the 500 Russian athletes listed in the application without providing any reason for the decision. The banned athletes were deemed to have failed the panel’s requirements.

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© Alexander Vilf

The world title holder in cross country skiing, Sergey Ustyugov, who is one of the Russian athletes trained by Cramer, was among those banned by the IOC. “Nobody knows, nobody is willing to explain to us why [Ustyugov] cannot start! He never had any problems with doping before, he did about 45 tests last year alone – and all came out clean,” the coach said.

He described the IOC’s decision as “very unfair.”

“We trained hard all year for the main competition, for the Olympics – and then one minute to midnight they say: “oh, sorry – you can’t start,” Cramer said, calling it “a great scandal.”

The IOC’s decision might be aimed at making Russia’s Olympic team perform poorly at the 2018 Games in PyeongChang, the former German junior & U23 team coach, who also trained Dario Cologna, a Swiss triple Olympic champion, assumed.

“I can give you my personal opinion: when they cut [Olympic champion in biathlon Anton] Shipulin, when they cut [6-times Olympic champion in short track skating Viktor] Ahn, when they cut all the best athletes – to me it looks like ‘we just do not want the Russians to perform well at the Olympics,’” he told Ruptly. Cramer himself, though, was invited to the Olympics in South Korea, even though he had a long association with Alexander Legkov, a Russian skier who was stripped of his Sochi gold and banned from the Games.

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Sergey Ustyugov (L), Anton Shipulin (R) © Sputnik

Earlier this week, the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) said it plans to demand an explanation for the ban from the IOC. “The reasons for [refusing invitations] must be explicitly explained to the athletes,” the ROC vice-president Stanislav Pozdnyakov said on Tuesday.

Pozdnyakov also pointed out the recently banned Russian athletes were clean and never violated any doping rules as he expressed his disappointment at the IOC’s ruling. Criticism of the IOC’s decision also came from Europe.

French sports news outlet Ski-nordique condemned the decision, pointing out that no evidence of guilt has been presented. It also said that the IOC and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) have a completely different approach towards doping cases involving athletes representing Western countries. While punishing Russia for even unproved violations, the bodies allow athletes from other countries to officially use doping under WADA’s Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) program.

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