Winter Olympics 2018: Olga Graf turns down IOC invite for Pyeongchang

Olga Graf
Graf won bronze medals in the 3,000m and team pursuit at Sochi 2014
XXIII Olympic Winter Games
Venue: Pyeongchang, South Korea Dates: 9-25 February
Coverage: Watch live on BBC TV, Red Button, Connected TVs, BBC Sport website and mobile app.

Russian speed skater Olga Graf has rejected an invitation to participate at the 2018 Winter Olympics because she says "the sport has become a bargaining chip in dirty political games".

Graf was one of 169 Russians chosen to compete as neutrals after the country was banned from the event over state-sponsored doping at the 2014 Games.

She would have competed until learning some team-mates were not chosen in an "unthinkable and unprecedented event".

Graf, 34, won two bronze at Sochi 2014.

She said in a statement: "I am glad the IOC commission has recognised me as a pure athlete, which I am, but I am sad that more than half of the national team in speed skating did not receive invitations to the Olympics, which I also do not doubt."

Graf was permitted to compete in South Korea as an Olympic Athlete from Russia as she was one of those deemed to be clean by the International Olympic Committee.

An initial list of 389 athletes was narrowed down from a "pre-registration pool" of 500 and more than 80% of those did not compete at the Sochi Games.

"As an athlete and as a citizen, I was extremely negative about the decision of the IOC to admit Russia to the Olympic Games under a neutral flag," added Graf.

"Nevertheless, I was ready to defend the honour of the country even on these discriminatory and degrading conditions.

"But at the end of January we learned that the majority of athletes of our Olympic speed skating team will not be able to perform at the Olympics, which means all my hopes in the struggle for the Olympic pedestal will not come true because the sport has become a bargaining chip in dirty political games."

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