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Olympics officials clash over Russian doping

International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach is with other members in Pyeongchang, South Korea, for this month's Winter Games. Reuters/Ahmad Masood

Three days ahead of the opening ceremonies of the Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, prominent members of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) have sparred over the handling of the ban of Russia’s national team.

The 105 members of the IOC met in Pyeongchang on Tuesday to hold a confidence vote on how the committee had handled the Russian doping ban.

The IOC has allowed only 169 carefully screened Russian athletes to compete under the banner “Olympic Athletes from Russia”.

These athletes “have more right than any other to claim that they are clean, because it’s only them who have undergone such a scrutiny before their admission,” said IOC President Thomas Bach.

But Dick Pound, the IOC’s longest serving member and a former head of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), warned the committee it was being far too lenient.

The Canadian former Olympic swimmer argued the IOC had appeared more eager to get Russians into Pyeonchang than to punish state-sponsored doping.

“We need to make it clear to the world that our decisions and actions are based on principles that distinguish the Olympic movement from entertainment sports,” Pound told the gathering.

“We’re talking about how we respond to attacks on those fundamental values by a country that voluntarily agreed to respect those values and which then deliberately attempted to destroy them.”

Another member, Gerardo Werthein of Argentina, sided with Bach and said some of Pound’s arguments were unfair.

“He makes statements that create an environment of doubt,” Werthein said. “In one way it discredits the work that is being done in the IOC.”

Pound’s views were not widely reflected in the confidence vote, as only he and one other member abstained in the otherwise unanimous approval of the body’s handling of the issue.

New Russian challenge to doping bans

The vote came as 32 more Russian athletes challenged their exclusion from the Games at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

It is a separate case from 28 Russian athletes whose lifetime bans lifted by the Court last week.

Six-time Olympic gold medal speed-skater Viktor Ahn, cross-country skiing champion Sergei Ustyugov and world biathlon champion Anton Shipulin among those appealing to join the games, despite failing to pass the IOC vetting process.

If they were allowed to compete, it would dramatically change the medal contenders in some sports just days ahead of the Games’ beginning.

The court said a hearing and a decision were expected on Wednesday.