Russian Federation 'will not bar athletes' from Games

Russian NHLers Alex Ovechkin left and Evgeny Kuznetsov say they will support any Russian Olympic athletes who choose to compete under a neutral flag in Pyeongchang

"First and foremost you need to protect athletes", - quoted Mutko "Federal news Agency".

Addressing the strained relations and their impact on the Olympics, Haley said the Trump administration would try to "find out the best way" to protect U.S. athletes participating in the games. "We will respect it and provide full-fledged support".

Russian media expressed regret at the decision while welcoming the possibility of some athletes participating in South Korea next year, albeit under tight restrictions.

"I don't want to assess the IOC's decision made regarding me", Mutko said. "I think time will settle everything down".

Russian authorities have vehemently denied any state support for doping and pledged to cooperate with worldwide sports authorities to counter the use of banned performance-enhancing drugs.

In the weeks ahead of the decision, the International Olympic Committee banned more than 20 Russian athletes for life from the Olympics as a result of an investigation into the alleged tampering of Russian athletes' positive tests by laboratory and security officials at the 2014 Sochi Games.

Russian Federation will never recognize the lies spread by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), whose accusations are based on the testimony of a person with psychiatric problems who has been accused of crimes, Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev said today at a government meeting.

Zhukov told the French news agency AFP he "apologized" to the International Olympic Committee on Tuesday for the "anti-doping violations" committed in his country in recent years.

Having made the point that it is not punishing the country, just its tarnished institutions, the IOC banned Mutko and his former deputy Yuri Nagornikh from future Olympic Games, told Ministry of Sports officials not to come to Pyeongchang and suspended the IOC membership of ROC president Alexander Zhukov.

Russia could refuse the offer to let its athletes compete without national identity or the playing of the Russian national anthem. The Pyeongchang organising committee said Wednesday it would prefer if Russians competed under their own flag, but accepted as "second-best" the decision to allow their participation as neutrals.

"We will all know that they will be representing Russian Federation".

"We have not had any discussions, either internally or with our government partners, about the possibility of not taking teams to the 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games", he said in a statement. "I'm pretty sure they are going and I'm going to cheer for them".

It said the IOC's actions proved that "you can destroy a whole Olympic country on the basis of indirect evidence and a single witness who was under a criminal investigation and has been treated in a psychiatric hospital". Neither Kuznetsov nor Ovechkin, who has played in the past three Olympics, will be in the Russian team after the National Hockey League announced in April it would not halt its season to accommodate the Games.

Isinbayeva said the "OAR" uniform marking might seem like a small concession, but it showed the Russians are still capable of pushing back. A day later, President Vladimir Putin half-heartedly denounced the ban as "politically motivated", gave cover to all those athletes who "wish to take part as individuals", but left it at that.