Russia has launched its athletes’ uniform for the Winter Olympics, as the country waits to find out if it will be banned from the games for doping offenses. Wednesday’s launch in an industrial-style venue called ”Hope” came ahead of a crucial International Olympic Committee vote next week on whether to allow Russia to compete in Pyeongchang, South Korea in February. ”We haven’t had much good news recently, so I hope today’s presentation will give Russian fans a little pleasure,” Russian Olympic Committee president Alexander Zhukov said.
Prospective Winter Olympians were thin on the ground at the launch, while models displayed the uniforms. Some more formal uniforms – of a kind possibly suitable for an opening ceremony – were a subdued light gray, with details in Russian white, blue and red. Other outfits included a red sweater, royal blue tracksuits and a headband in Russian colors. The Russian Olympic Committee posted a picture on Twitter of models wearing the sweaters emblazoned with the slogan: ”I don’t do doping,” though they weren’t featured in the official presentation.
It wasn’t clear which outfits would be worn by Olympic athletes, and which were simply merchandise for fans. There was no specialized competition gear for skiers or skaters – though there was what appeared to be a red women’s swimsuit, unlikely to be much use in winter sports. Doping offenses have so far led the IOC to ban 22 Russian athletes who competed at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, amid evidence that host nation Russia operated a systematic doping program.
The most recent cases came to light on Wednesday, with three more Russian bobsledders being disqualified for doping.
Alexander Kasyanov, Alexei Pushkarev and Ilyir Khuzin finished fourth in the four-man bobsled but had been due to move up to the bronze when the original gold medal-winning Russian sled was disqualified, also for doping offenses. The bronze could now go to the British team if the International Olympic Committee formally reallocates the medals. Britain last won a bobsled medal in 1998 when it took bronze in the four-man event.
In a further embarrassment, the Russian Bobsled Federation has admitted it allowed an athlete to compete in one of its top domestic competitions even though he was supposed to be banned until 2019 for steroid use. Ilya Atnabayev, one of the world’s top young weightlifters until his 2015 ban, raced on Nov. 4 on the Sochi Olympic track in the Russian Cup, a competition that doubles as a tryout for the national team.
Atnabayev and his teammates finished second of eight crews in the four-man event. The Russian Bobsled Federation said it had removed Atnabayev from its training programs, and blamed local officials in the Sochi area for letting him race without proper checks. While he was banned as a weightlifter, Atnabayev’s suspension should have counted for all sports signed up to the World Anti-Doping Agency code, including Winter and Summer Olympic events. Alexander Zubkov, the RBF’s president, has already been stripped of two gold medals he won as an athlete at the Sochi Olympics.