Irina Rodnina, the most decorated figure skater in history who is now a member of the Russian State Duma, has spoken out on the recent International Olympic Committee (IOC) ruling to impose sanctions on Russia.
On Tuesday, the IOC banned Russia from the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang during its executive board meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland.
The decision blocks Russia from sending an official delegation to PyeongChang, but grants ‘clean’ Russian athletes the right to take part in the Olympics independently, and without their national flag and anthem.
In an exclusive interview with RT, Rodnina, the only woman to win 10 world titles and three Olympic gold medals in figure skating, underlined that Russia “cannot accept groundless allegations,” as no evidence has been presented up to now, to prove the existence of a state-sponsored doping program in the country.
RT: What’s your take on the IOC decision, which bans Russia’s flag and national anthem at the PyeongChang Games?
Irina Rodnina: To say the least, it’s a sad decision. On the other hand, our athletes have a right to go to South Korea. The question is, how are we going to use that right. I can say only one thing, there will be an Olympic athletes meeting on December 12, when the decision will be made. I think that final decision should be made by the whole country: government, [Russian] Olympic Committee and all Russian citizens. If we decide that they should, they have to realize that they will represent. But if the whole country will say that they shouldn’t go, they should not hold a grudge.
RT: What is your view on the decisions regarding some of the Russian officials? Alexander Zhukov has lost his IOC membership, Vitaly Mutko has been banned for life from visiting any Olympic Games…
IR: We will have to look into the issue and make certain conclusions, both inside the country and at the IOC as well. We should use all the tools, including legal proceedings.
RT: Why do you think, no evidence to prove Russia’s guilt have been presented?
IR: This is one of the key questions. We have been criticized for not having accepted the McLaren report’s findings. But we cannot accept groundless allegations. We cannot admit that a state-sponsored doping program operated in Russian sport. Only a mentally sick person can be struck with such an idea. We need to clarify the issue. The decision was made not only against the athletes, but against Russia. They have driven a wedge between Russia and the rest of the world.
RT: Do you think we will we see the evidence which will confirm Grigory Rodchenkov’s words later?
IR: It’s strange that the Russian delegation received the Schmid report just 20 minutes before the [IOC] decision announcement. This is a question which should be addressed to a the IOC regarding their methods of work. I’ve been told that Russia should have taken a tougher stance. But what stance can we talk about? Two Disciplinary Commissions held investigations. On December 5 they presented the findings of their work on the bases of which the decision was made.
RT: Do you think that the IOC decision will violate the athletes’ rights?
IR: On the one hand, the IOC made a logical decision to allow clean athletes to compete in South Korea. But because Schmid has concluded that state-backed doping program existed in Russia, the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC), which represents the state, has been punished.
RT: Do you think that the IOC’s decision could be politically motivated?
IR: In this situation it’s better not to think at all, but to make important decisions for us. It’s important not to make spontaneous decisions. Let’s react patiently. We need to make decisions regarding our athletes’ participation in the Games as well as regarding the ROC’s state, and we need to study the documents we have received. So far, we lack consistency.
RT: Will it be a tragedy for the Russian athletes if they don’t participate in the Games?
IR: It will be. Fortunately I never faced such problems in my sporting career. But, when you enter sport you always keep in mind that you career can finish at any moment, as you might receive an injury, or might get ill. That’s why we need to be prepared for any decision.