Russian athletes 'want to compete in Olympics': official

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Moscow (AFP)

Most Russian athletes want to compete in the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang despite a ban on the country's team, the head of the athletes' commission at the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) said Monday.

"We have talked to all the athletes in all the winter sports. The majority of these want to take part in the Games," said fencer Sofiya Velikaya.

"The scientific commission supports the position of those sports figures who have decided or may yet decide to compete with neutral status, as well as respecting the position of those who won't participate.

"Athletes are fully aware that there won't be a flag or the Russian colours, but they will be representing Russia whatever happens," she added.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) last week decided to ban Russia from the 2018 Games that run from February 9-25 over its state-sponsored doping programme.

It said it would only allow "clean" Russian athletes to participate under strict conditions and under the Olympic flag.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said in October said that it would be a "humiliation" for Russian athletes to compete under the Olympic flag.

He has subsequently softened his stance, however, saying Russia will not boycott the Games and will not stand in the way of athletes who hope to compete as individuals.