Russian President Vladimir Putin accused the United States Wednesday of orchestrating a conspiracy to ban Russia from the 2018 Olympics, following Tuesday’s decision by the International Olympic Committee.
“All this looks like an absolutely well-orchestrated campaign and a politically motivated decision,” he said Wednesday, according to state-run media. “We see this and I have no doubts about that.”
Putin made that remark while announcing his plan to seek a fourth term as president of Russia, which he has led since 1999. The accusation was echoed more pointedly by Russian diplomats, who also alleged that western powers had manipulated the Olympic process in order to embarrass their country.
“For a long time we’ve experienced attempts by the United States to put pressure on international sports organizations,” Russian deputy foreign minister Sergey Ryabkov said Tuesday. "We are for competition in sports and for ridding this sphere of dirty political tricks. We do hope that this approach will prevail in Washington sooner or later.”
International investigators concluded that Russia engaged in a massive conspiracy to help athletes take performance-enhancing drugs in the run-up to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
The International Olympics Committee accepted both recommendations and banned the national team, but allowed individual Russian athletes who can show they have not cheated to compete under a neutral flag.
Putin claimed in November that western powers were agitating for Russia’s exclusion in order to embarrass him in the run-up to the presidential election.
“In response to our alleged interference in their elections [in the United States], they want to stir up problems during the Russian presidential election,” he said in November. “There are vast suspicions that all this is being done to stoke an atmosphere necessary for someone where sports fans and athletes are disgruntled over the fact that the state is allegedly involved in breaches and it is responsible for that.”
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova took up that refrain on Wednesday, linking the winter games to a broader series of clashes between Russia and the West across several foreign policy theaters.
“This is a large-scale offensive, I believe this is due to the fact that the head-on attempt to isolate Russia, which was declared as ‘the march on Russia’ has flopped," she said. "Attempts to isolate Russia have collapsed, while the desire, efforts and opportunities still remain.”
Putin added Wednesday that he would not endorse a boycott of the games. “Russia will not block anything and will not create any obstacles for those athletes who personally decide to perform [at the Olympics]," he said.