European Olympic Committees President Janez Kocijančič has criticized the decision to make Russia compete neutrally at Pyeongchang 2018, potentially causing friction within the continental governing body.
Kocijančič had repeatedly criticized any collective punishment of the world’s largest country in the build-up to last week’s decision at the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Executive Board meeting in Lausanne.
The 76-year-old Slovenian has now warned about the emergence of a new “Cold War” in sport.
It followed an IOC investigation corroborating claims that there had been a “systemic manipulation” of the anti-doping system at events including the 2014 Winter Olympics Games in Sochi – from which 25 Russians have so far been retrospectively disqualified.
The IOC ruled that only Russian athletes not implicated in the scandal can participate as part of a neutral team, entitled “Olympic Athletes from Russia”.
“Everyone who committed doping violations must be punished in accordance with the principle of zero tolerance,” Kocijančič, also vice-president of the International Ski Federation, told Radio-Television Slovenia.
“But I have great concerns when punishing those who have not committed anything [in terms of proven anti-doping violations].
“And these solutions that sportsmen who are reliably cleans appear under a neutral flag without national markings seems to me to be rather controversial.
“Obviously, Russian athletes will perform under significantly tougher conditions than all other athletes in the Olympic Games, and I think this is controversial.
“I would like to see that at the highest international competitions at the highest level competition, all athletes are equal.”
Kocijančič also claimed that the absence of Russia would affect the quality of world sport.
“If it goes this way, it will go in the wrong direction,” he added to Radio-Television Slovenia.
“Russia is the largest country in the world…and without Russia the highest quality world in most sports is not.
“I hope that these things will not get worse.
“In any case, it would seem to me that Cold War in sports would be unnecessary.”
insidethegames has contacted the EOC on several occasions for a statement responding to the IOC decision, but has not yet received one.
The body’s recently elected vice-president Niels Nygaard of Denmark is a known supporter of the IOC decision.
“NOC DK (National Olympic Committee and Sports Confederation of Denmark) – alongside a number of other European NOCs – fully supports and applauds the IOC decision concerning Pyeongchang and Russia,” Nygaard, who is President of the national body, told insidethegames when asked for a response to Kocijančič’s comments.
“As EOC vice-president I do not have any further comments for the time being – I expect we will discuss the situation at the next EOC Executive Committee meeting in January.”
Kocijančič and Nygaard have vowed to work well together at the helm of the EOC, despite the former having been seen as an active supporter of the latter’s beaten opponent, Dutchman André Bolhuis, during his successful vice-presidential bid last month.
The EOC were a strong supporter of the IOC decision not to hand Russia a blanket ban from Rio 2016 last year under former President Patrick Hickey.
They had been hoping then to award the second edition of the European Games to the country but ultimately decided to award it to Minsk in Belarus instead as the doping scandal escalated.
National Olympic Committee of Belarus general secretary Georgy Katulin has also criticised the IOC decision but, as Nygaard said, many other European NOCs have supported it.
The Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) headed by Kuwait’s Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah have also praised the IOC response.
“ANOC fully supports the IOC’s decision to suspend the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) whilst creating a path for clean individual athletes to compete in Pyeongchang 2018 under the Olympic Flag,” they said in a statement sent to insidethegames.
“ANOC encourages the ROC to collaborate closely with the IOC and WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) in order to protect its clean athletes.
“Working with the IOC, ANOC will ensure that all NOCs continue to fulfill their responsibility to protect and promote the Olympic Movement and its values within their countries.”
The suspension on Russia could be lifted before the Closing Ceremony of Pyeongchang 2018 – allowing athletes to march and, potentially, receive medals under their own flag there – if they accept the IOC decision and do not launch a fully-fledged boycott.
By Nick Butler
Republished with permission from insidethegames.biz.