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Saturday, 23 February, 2002, 03:21 GMT
Russians to stay at Games
Russian president Vladimir Putin addresses a press conference
Putin said the Russians were victims of "unfair" judging
Russian officials have withdrawn their threat to boycott the rest of the Winter Olympics.

They have also confirmed that their athletes will be present at the closing ceremony on Sunday.

The decision follows private talks at their Olympic accomodation in Cottonwood with International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge on Friday.


I am very pleased with the discussions we had

Jacques Rogge
IOC president
"The national team will stay," said Russia's IOC vice-president Vitaly Smirnov.

"It will take part until the very end. Russia will take part in all events, in all competitions and will take part in the closing ceremony."

Naturally, Rogge was delighted to avert a deepening political crisis and said: "I am very pleased with the discussions we had."

Earlier, President Vladimir Putin had backed the complaints of Russian officials, saying the country's team had been "subjected to unfair and biased judging".

His comments reinforced Thursday's threat from national officials to pull the team out of the Games following several controversial decisions.

"North American athletes receive a clear advantage," Putin claimed.

The Kremlin leader said he thought added that the Games had suffered from "excessive commercialisation" and he also censured IOC representatives, and even his country's own Olympic committee, for their "passive attitude towards the biased decisions and judgments at the Winter Games".

Larissa Lazutina in action during the women's 5km cross country last week
Lazutina exceeded allowable haemoglobin levels
"Representatives of other countries whose athletes are not so affected by biased judgements nevertheless take a more active stance," he said.

Russian anger was ignited by the expulsion of cross-country skier Larissa Lazutina on Thursday for having high levels of performance-boosting haemoglobin.

But Putin's views were mild in comparison to those expressed in the State Duma, the Russian parliament's lower house.

And earlier on Friday, the Duma actually voted 359-3 in favour of boycotting the Games closing ceremony if the IOC failed to justify the skier's ban.

Leading nationalist politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky declared: "We should spit in their faces - the referees and those hosting the Games.

"This is merely a settling of accounts by criminal sports structures."

Lazutina's expulsion followed other decisions which left the Russians seething in Salt Lake.

They were unhappy at having to share gold in the pairs skating, and seeing Irina Slutskaya only win silver in the ladies free programme.

They also complained of unfair refereeing during their 1-0 win against the Czech Republic in the ice hockey quarter-finals.

See also:

21 Feb 02 | Other Skiing
Rogge acts to calm Russian storm
22 Feb 02 | Front Page News
Russians question their hosts
22 Feb 02 | Other Skiing
Lazutina test angers Russia
21 Feb 02 | Other Skiing
German women secure relay gold
20 Feb 02 | Other Skiing
Russians upset over judging


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