International Olympic Committee (IOC) Athletes’ Commission chair Angela Ruggiero has said she applauds the decision of the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation (IBSF) to strip its 2017 World Championships from Sochi.
The IBSF chose to remove the World Championships, scheduled for February 13 to 26, from the 2014 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games host city on Tuesday (December 13).
It came as a result of the evidence of state-sponsored Russian doping at events, including Sochi 2014, uncovered in the second part of the McLaren Report.
Evidence published in the report from Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren suggests more than 1,000 home athletes are implicated, including medal winners in sliding sports.
The IBSF Executive Committee duly felt that "during this difficult time it is prudent not to organise such an event in Russia".
In a statement released today, Ruggiero has expressed her support for the decision.
"Sport is facing challenging times, and therefore it is of the utmost importance, especially during sports competitions and big events, for the focus to remain on the athletes and their performances," Ruggiero, a member of the United States ice hockey team that won the Olympic gold medal at Nagano, said.
"Therefore, as chair of the IOC Athletes’ Commission, I applaud the IBSF for putting its focus on the athletes in making the decision to reassign the organisation of the Sochi event to another host country.
"The IOC Athletes’ Commission fully agrees that accusations and discussions should have no place at pinnacle sports events, and that the current climate surrounding sport in Russia would have made it very hard for athletes to be at the centre if competing in a divisive setting.
"I equally hope that all Russian authorities and individuals fully address the current issues and take all necessary actions to re-instil confidence in Russian sport.
"Only with these steps and commitment will celebrating and showcasing athletes’ performances be the focus, and competitions can take place in Russia again."
Before the decision was made, a boycott threat had come from several nations due to compete at the World Championships, including Great Britain, the United States, Latvia and South Korea.
The IBSF’s choice led to suggestions that the Russian team may boycott the World Championships in protest at being stripped of the event.
Russian Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation (RBSF) President Alexander Zubkov has quelled such fears, however, by confirming to TASS that Russia would send a team to the competition.
Zubkov, named by former Moscow Laboratory director Grigory Rodchenkov as having his sample illegally tampered with at Sochi 2014 - where he won gold medals in the two and four-man bobsleigh event - in an interview with the New York Times in May, has given a "100 per cent guarantee" that the country will not boycott the event.
A new location for the Championships is due to be determined in the coming days, with Königssee in Germany emerging as a possible replacement.
The second part of the McLaren Report revealed over 1,000 Russian athletes had been involved in a state-sponsored doping scheme between 2011 and 2015, which was in operation at major events such as Sochi 2014.
On the eve of its release, Ruggiero insisted the IOC Athletes’ Commission was "fully committed to building a stronger and more effective global anti-doping system" because, as "clean athletes, we are directly affected more than anyone else, and enhancing the credibility of sport is in our fundamental collective interest".
Following the publication of the first part of the McLaren Report in July, the IOC told Winter International Federations to "freeze preparations" for major events in Russia and asked them to "actively seek alternative organisers".
They then backtracked on the initial recommendations, claiming these only applied to future bid processes and not current candidacies from Russia or competitions which had already been awarded.
The IBSF chose Sochi as the host of the 2017 World Championships in June 2013.