Kremlin happy Russians will be able to compete at Olympics

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FILE – In this Saturday, Feb. 17, 2018 file photo Russian supporter waves a flag before the preliminary round of the men’s hockey game between the team from Russia and the United States at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Gangneung, South Korea. Russia was banned Thursday Dec. 17, 2020 from using its name, flag and anthem at the next two Olympics or at any world championships for the next two years. The Court of Arbitration for Sport’s ruling also blocked Russia from bidding to host major sporting events for two years. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum, File)

MOSCOW (AP) — The Kremlin voiced regret Friday about the ruling that banned Russia from using its name, flag and anthem at the next two Olympics, but emphasized that the verdict would still allow the country’s athletes to compete.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport halved a proposed four-year ban to two and left Russia in full control of its roster while also scrapping a plan to exclude athletes suspected of benefiting from past doping cover-ups.

Russian sports officials were elated about the ruling because the new restrictions will be weaker than before.

“Of course, we regret this decision, and, of course, our attitude to it is negative,” Dmitry Peskov, President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, said in a conference call. “But, at the same time, as our senior sports officials have already noted, the most important thing is that athletes get the right to take part in international competitions, which will help them maintain their international qualifications and remain in good shape.”

Russian teams won’t be allowed compete under their usual name at next year’s Tokyo Olympics or the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing, but “Russia” will be printed in some form on their red, white and blue uniforms.

WADA wanted Russian athletes to show they didn’t benefit from cover-ups at a Moscow laboratory before they were cleared to compete at the Olympics, Paralympics and world championship events. Russia argued that amounted to collective punishment.

Peskov emphasized that Russia will continue to work as closely as possible with international sports organizations.

“As regards all other issues, we intend to stay in close touch with international sports organizations,” he said. “We will continue this dialogue, we will continue to defend our interests by all means available, and we will continue our crackdown on doping, which the president of the Russian Federation has repeatedly described as the greatest evil.”

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