Former British bobsledder John Jackson has expressed his support for the International Olympic Committee’s decision to effectively ban Russia from the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.
Jackson and the rest of his GB four-man crew are in line to receive a retrospective bronze medal from Sochi 2014 after two Russian crews that finished ahead of them were disqualified for doping by the International Olympic Committee last week.
The IOC announced on Monday that there will be no Russian flags or anthems in Pyeongchang, and only Russians who can prove they have not cheated – verified by credible anti-doping agencies – will be invited to take part.
Jackson told Press Association Sport: “I always said the IOC should ban Russia as a nation and their flag should not be seen in Pyeongchang, but any athlete who can prove they are clean should be allowed to compete.
“It is going to be quite difficult to prove or disprove their eligibility but as an athlete, all you can ask is that you are allowed to compete on a level playing field to everyone else.”
The issue of Russian eligibility is particularly pertinent within the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation, who have twice issued provisional suspensions to the Russian athletes banned by the IOC, only to have to lift their sanctions based on legal advice.
A number of those banned Russians – including Alexander Kasjanov, whose ban by the IOC last week effectively facilitated Jackson’s rise to bronze – are competing in the IBSF World Cup in Winterberg this weekend.
“It’s a difficult one and I imagine the atmosphere at the track might sometimes get a little bit uncomfortable,” Jackson said. “But as an athlete you’ve just got to focus on getting on with business and leave the rest to the bodies concerned.”
The British Olympic Association also backed the move, calling it “the right decision”. The BOA chairman, Sir Hugh Robertson, said: “We take no pleasure in the outcome of the IOC Commissions. However, the IOC has taken the right decision.”
If Jackson’s bronze medal is ratified, it will make Sochi 2014 the most successful Winter Olympics in British history, eclipsing the four medals won at the inaugural event in Chamonix in 1924. A number of British athletes, most notably the reigning Olympic skeleton gold medallist Lizzy Yarnold, have led the fight for fairness in the wake of the McLaren report into state-sponsored doping.
And BOA Athletes’ Commission chairman Ben Hawes said he hoped the decision would provide some solace to athletes such as Jackson who were denied their moments of glory in Sochi. Hawes said: “Based on the findings of the independent reports commissioned by the IOC we believe this ban is the correct and appropriate outcome. We are optimistic this decision will send a clear message to both athletes and officials who have cheated.
“We now place great importance on the work of the IOC panel to determine clean athletes to compete in PyeongChang 2018, and in doing so hope they give our athletes the confidence that they line up in a clean competition against the best in the world. Our disappointment still remains for those athletes robbed of medals and precious moments in Sochi 2014 and other Olympic Games.”
The World Olympians Association also welcomed the IOC’s decision, but stressed the rights of Russian athletes untainted by doping should not be compromised.
In a statement, the WOA said: “World Olympians Association welcomes the decision made by the IOC executive board and the due process followed to ensure the individual rights of clean athletes are protected.
“World Olympians Association takes the fight against doping extremely seriously and is determined to see cheats driven out to ensure a level playing field for all Olympians.
“But we reiterate our stance that, where possible, individual justice should be applied to ensure clean athletes are not unfairly punished.”