Russian short track speed skater Viktor Ahn, banned from competing at the upcoming 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics over doping allegations, says he is struggling to understand the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) decision.
“This is really a very difficult situation,” Ahn exclusively told RT. “The IOC hasn’t specified any reasons for my exclusion from the Olympics. I don’t understand why they have made such a decision. I really can’t say anything right now. I’m still waiting, but if the situation is not resolved we will take action.”
The six-time Olympic gold medalist said the PyeongChang Games, which begin on February 9, would “be an especially significant part” of his career, as they will be staged in South Korea – the country of his birth.
Ahn competed for his native country under the name Ahn Hyun-soo until a disagreement with the Korean Skating Union (KSU) saw him acquire Russian citizenship in 2011, and go on to earn three gold medals for his adoptive nation at Sochi 2014.
The 32-year-old, who has never been implicated in doping, was sensationally excluded from the list of Olympic participants by the IOC-appointed Invitation Review Panel, which examined Russian athletes’ applications for February’s Games.
As well as Ahn, several Russian medal contenders were missing from the list of approved athletes, including biathlete Anton Shipulin and cross-country skiing world champion Sergey Ustiugov.
In an open letter addressed to IOC president Thomas Bach, Ahn expressed his disappointment at the organization’s verdict, asking it to clarify the reasons for his disqualification.
“Two weeks before the start of the Olympics I found out that the Olympic movement does not consider me an athlete who deserves to be a part of it without even providing an explanation,” Ahn wrote.
“During my entire career journey in short track, I’ve never given a reason to doubt my honesty and my integrity, especially when it comes to my victories which I achieved with nothing but my strength and dedication.”
Ahn also included in the letter his fears that the IOC’s decision has already damaged his reputation, as despite his clean doping record, many spectators had already begun to view him as a drugs cheat.
“I can honestly declare that I haven’t done anything that would justify putting me on the list of athletes barred from participating in the Olympic Games.
“It is outrageous that there is no concrete reason which explains my exclusion from the Olympics, and furthermore people now view me as an athlete who used doping.
“I hope that the IOC will ultimately declare their reason for my exclusion, so I will be able to defend my honor and dignity,” he added.
So far, the list of Russians approved for the upcoming Winter Games amounts to 169, the majority of whom didn’t compete at the Sochi Games, where the alleged doping manipulation that led to Russia’s ban took place.
Following Russia’s disqualification from the Olympics as the result of the investigation into alleged doping violations, indicated in the McLaren report, all Russian athletes eligible to participate at the Games will be obliged to perform under a neutral flag as Olympic Athletes from Russia (OAR).