PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (AP) — The Russian Olympic Committee is suspended from the Winter Games, yet its vice president was working in Pyeongchang on Thursday with Russian athletes, just the latest loophole found in the ban.
Stanislav Pozdnyakov spoke to reporters in the Olympic press center, explaining the ban doesn't apply to him.
For the Pyeongchang Games, Pozdnyakov is the head of the delegation of the "Olympic Athletes from Russia," the no-flag, neutral delegation of 168 athletes that the International Olympic Committee has allowed to compete. Fifty-one more Russian athletes have appealed their bans for doping before the Court of Arbitration for Sport. A ruling is expected on Friday.
"You have to read attentively the decision of the IOC," Pozdnyakov explained, going through the ins-and-outs of the ruling.
"The IOC decision says that the Russian Olympic Committee is suspended," Pozdnyakov acknowledged. "The president and the general secretary for the Russian Olympic Committee are not able to participate in these games. But (there's) nothing about the vice president or other staff members of the Russian Olympic Committee."
Team spokesman Konstantin Vybornov said the Russian "staff was appointed by the IOC as a separate team," a move to allow top Russian officials to lead their delegation.
In an email to The Associated Press, the IOC said Pozdnyakov was in charge to ensure "that the clean Russian athletes competing here are given proper support."
Pozdnyakov said there was no "medal target" for the Olympics, and he declined to speculate about the appeals before the sports tribunal.
"I'll be glad if additional members of our delegation will be at these games," he said.
Russia's team will be one of the largest in Pyeongchang; smaller than it was four years ago at home in Sochi, and a similar size to the team in Vancouver in 2010.
An Olympic volunteer will carry the Olympic flag when Russia marches into the stadium on Friday. The IOC has said it would lift the ban if Russians follow the "letter and spirit" of the law. This would allow Russia to march under its own national flag at the closing ceremony.
Asked to express his sentiments about the ban, Pozknyakov declined.
"I cannot comment," he said, "because I accepted an invitation of the International Olympic Committee."
He said Russians have been told to behave — no Russian flags, no criticism of the IOC, no protests.
"We already gave advice to them, guidelines of behavior by the IOC," Pozdnyakov said. "But we cannot include in these guidelines the thousands of probable situations. I know that everybody from our delegation knows about the rules and is ready to respect them."
Pozdnyakov repeated the goal: to march in the closing ceremony under Russia's flag — not the five-ring, Olympic version.
"The general idea at the end," Pozdnyakov said, "is to get the Russian flag in the closing ceremony."
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