Pyeongchang Winter Olympics: Russia confirms star speed skater Victor An banned for doping

Six-time Olympic gold medallist An was absent from the list of potential participant. Photograph:( Zee News Network )

AFP Moscow, Russia Jan 23, 2018, 01.05 PM (IST)

Short track speed skating star Victor An has been excluded from the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in the aftermath of a state-sponsored doping scandal, angry Russian officials confirmed on Tuesday.

Six-time Olympic gold medallist An -- who was born in South Korea but took Russian citizenship before the 2014 Sochi Games -- was "absent from the list of potential participants", vice president of the Russian Olympic Committee Stanislav Pozdnyakov said in a statement, confirming media reports from Monday. 

Olympic champion biathlete Anton Shipulin and world champion skier Sergei Ustyugov were also absent from the list of athletes invited by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the statement said.

The absent sportsmen have "never been implicated in any type of doping affair and the numerous tests they have passed in their careers show that they are clean athletes", Pozdnyakov said.

"Today we will send the International Olympic Committee a request for the specific reasons why the captains of Russian teams in various sports have not been included in the list of potential participants."

The ROC said it did not see this as a final decision, but An`s lawyer told media on Monday there would not be time to appeal before the Games.

In a separate statement, the Russian figure skating federation said skaters Ksenia Stolbova and Ivan Bukin had been banned from the games, in a decision the body slammed as "groundless and absurd".

Stolbova along with her partner Fedor Klimov took silver in the European Championships in Moscow last week and the pair were also second at the Sochi Winter Games in 2014. 

Bukin won bronze with his partner Alexandra Stepanova at the latest European Championships.President of the Russian Skating Union Alexei Kravtsov said he was "outraged by the unjust decision" to bar top athletes. 

"By acting like this, the IOC can be compared to a despot and a tyrant, trampling on laws and deciding people`s fate simply according to its whims," he said in a statement. 

"It is clear that we do not really have time to do anything before the Olympics, but we intend to continue the fight to clear the names of our athletes," he added.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said he had seen the "sad" media reports that An, Ustyugov and Shipulin had been banned. 

"We deeply regret this, if such a decision is indeed taken," he told journalists.The IOC banned Russia from the 2018 Olympics after a report on a vast, Moscow-backed doping scheme in previous Games. 

Russians who want to compete are being forced to pass a unique set of anti-doping tests.

Those deemed clean will be allowed to appear in Pyeongchang under a neutral flag as an "Olympic Athlete from Russia".

An had earlier requested permission to compete as a neutral athlete following the IOC`s ban on Russia.

Dozens of Russian athletes banned by the IOC for life for doping began an appeal against their suspension on Monday at the world`s top sports court.

The week-long hearing at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) includes appeals from 39 Russians who competed at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi but are now banned after multiple independent reports linked them to doping.

Last week the IOC said the pool of Russians who could potentially be eligible for the 2018 Games had been reduced from 500 to 389. 

Russia`s deputy prime minister responsible for sport Vitaly Mutko -- also suspended for life by the IOC for his role in the doping scandal -- earlier said he believed around 200 Russians would ultimately be cleared for Pyeongchang.