Road To The Olympic Games

Speed Skating

Russian speed skater turns down Olympic invite

A Russian speed skater refused her place at the Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, on Tuesday after several of her teammates weren't invited. Olga Graf, a two-time bronze medallist from the 2014 Sochi Games, had targeted a medal in the team pursuit race next month.

'Sport has become a bargaining chip in filthy political games,' Olga Graf says

Russian speed skater Olga Graf turned down the IOC's invitation to the upcoming Olympics, citing the politicization of sports. (Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

A Russian speed skater refused her place at the Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, on Tuesday after several of her teammates weren't invited.

Olga Graf, a two-time bronze medallist from the 2014 Sochi Games, had targeted a medal in the team pursuit race next month.

"All my hopes to compete for the Olympic podium are fated not to be realized because sport has become a bargaining chip in filthy political games," Graf said in a statement on social media.

Graf is the first Russian to refuse an International Olympic Committee invitation to compete at the Pyeongchang Games. That leaves 168 "Olympic Athletes from Russia" who must compete under a neutral flag because of IOC sanctions related to doping at the Sochi Olympics.

As part of the punishment, Russian athletes can compete by invitation only. Some top medal contenders were excluded from the list.

Russia was left with only three eligible women's speed skaters, including Graf. Three women race in the team pursuit, but of the three Russian women, one is a sprint specialist unsuited to the longer event. Graf could have competed in some individual races.

"I'm happy that the IOC commission declared me a clean athlete, which I am, but I am saddened that more than half of our national speed skating team didn't get invited to the Olympics, and I don't doubt they are also clean," Graf wrote. "Since we have been deprived of the chance to fight for the Olympic podium in the team sprint, I don't accept the IOC invitation."

Graf won bronze in the team pursuit and the 3,000-metre individual race in Sochi.

Putin wants to turn the page

Vladimir Putin says he hopes his country can soon leave behind years of doping scandals.

"I hope that this page will be turned," the Russian president said at an election campaign event, adding that the Games could mark the end of the country's doping problems. 

The IOC has required Russians to compete in uniforms without national symbols and bars them from gestures like taking a national flag from spectators to celebrate.

"I call on all our athletes to follow all the rules that the International Olympic Committee suggests," Putin said.

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