Russian Athletes Call Olympic Selection Process a ‘Lottery’

Russian Athletes Call Olympic Selection Process a ‘Lottery’

After a nominal ban of the Russian team from the Games, the Olympic committee cleared 169 Russian athletes to compete as “Olympic athletes from Russia.” This is down from 232 Russian Olympians who dominated medal rankings at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia. It later appeared that they were dominant largely because of a carefully orchestrated cheating scheme.

Mr. Putin has been denying that any doping plot existed in Sochi or that the Kremlin ran a state-sponsored doping program in recent years, dismissing the accusations as part of a broad plan to weaken Russia and punish it for its sports victories.

On Tuesday, Mr. Putin described Grigory Rodchenkov, the former head of the Moscow antidoping laboratory, as a “nut job” who “should be put in prison.” After fleeing Russia, Dr. Rodchenkov claimed he was responsible for the Russian doping program and personally running the doping scheme in Sochi.

“Everything is based on the testimony of this person,” Mr. Putin said during a campaign event in Moscow. “Can you trust him? We are told he is working under the control of American special services.”

Mr. Putin is set to win re-election in March to stay in the Kremlin for a fourth term. He said earlier that the doping scandal was a plot to provoke anger among Russian sports fans and athletes ahead of the election.

Russian athletes, present at the meeting, were equally adamant about the accusations.

“I believe that what happened to our colleagues who are unable to participate in these Games is a case of blatant injustice,” Alena Zavarzina, a Russian snowboarder, told the gathering. “It is not fair.”

Ilya Kovalchuk, a Russian ice hockey star, said the fact that many Russian athletes were not qualified for the Olympics puts more pressure on the hockey team.

“The Olympic Games is like a birthday party for the I.O.C.; they invite whoever they want,” Mr. Kovalchuk said before the event. “It is weird because they did not invite leaders from other sports. We are lucky that we are going and it will be even more pressure on us.”

The I.O.C. also ruled that Russian athletes would not be allowed to use their national flag and that the national anthem would not be played when they won. At the meeting, many Russian athletes wore shirts bearing the slogan “Russia in My Heart” under their neutral gray-and-red uniforms.

Mr. Putin was presented with one such jersey, bearing his name and signed by athletes.

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