Czechs back Russia’s 2018 Olympics case

Author: AFPWed, 2017-11-29 14:45ID: 1511956734466037800PRAGUE: The Czech Ice Hockey Association (CSLH) said Wednesday several national federations had sent letters to the sport’s top international body backing Russia’s bid to play at the 2018 Winter Olympics.
They want the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) to persuade the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to let Russia play despite the country’s doping scandals from the 2014 Games it hosted.
The IOC meets next week to decide on Russia’s participation at the PyeongChang Games in South Korea.
“We want the best hockey players to take part in the 2018 Olympics,” CSLH spokesman Zdenek Zikmund said.
“We want to play for the medals against the best, and Russia is definitely one of the best,” he added.
Zikmund said other ice hockey powerhouses including Finland and Sweden had sent similar letters to the IIHF to give its head Rene Fasel ammunition for talks with the IOC.
The IIHF itself said on Tuesday that “all clean athletes, including those from Russia, must be permitted to represent their country in the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang.”
“We oppose the use of collective punishment in the case of Russian athletes,” the IIHF said at its Council meeting in Zurich, Switzerland.
Hit hard by the NHL’s decision to continue throughout the PyeongChang Games, which effectively prevents NHL players from taking part, Olympic hockey fans are now looking up to the Russian Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) where most top non-NHL players ply their trade.
The KHL has threatened to continue as well, should Russian athletes be banned from the Games, which would further affect the quality of the Olympic hockey tournament.
While the former Soviet Union won seven Olympic ice hockey titles, independent Russia is still waiting for the first crown, and for the first medal since bronze from Salt Lake City 2002.
Yet, its absence would be painful, said the IIHF — the more so that Russia has won four IIHF World Championships since 2008.
“Russia’s role in the growth and development of ice hockey cannot be understated. This country forms a pillar … which our sport’s legacy rests upon,” it said.
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