Thomas Bach, the IOC President, has defended the Russia ban ©Getty Images

International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach has defended the decision to ban Russia from Pyeongchang 2018 over doping but allow its athletes to compete under a neutral banner if they can prove they are clean.

In an interview with Germany's Die Welt am Sonntag newspaper, Bach dismissed criticism that it was a decision by the IOC to appease Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Bach went further by stating that it would be unethical to ban clean athletes.

His remarks follow widespread criticism of the IOC's position, particularly from the lawyer of Grigory Rodchenkov, former director of Russia's national anti-doping laboratory in Moscow, who described his leadership as "pathetic" and accused him of "kowtowing to powerful Russia" in the wake of the IOC's treatment of the whistleblower

"How far this is from reality, you see not only the reaction of the public in Russia, but in particular to the fact that the Deputy Prime Minister Vital Mutko, suspended for life by the IOC, wants to challenge this penalty," Bach told the newspaper.

"Obviously, prejudices continue to be cultivated here.

"The same voices called for a total exclusion even before the conclusion of due process, to which every person and every organisation has a claim.

"And anyone who was not for a total exclusion was called unethical, and I still wonder today why it should be ethical to punish innocent athletes."

Thomas Bach, right, has denied accusations that allowing athletes to compete under the banner
Thomas Bach, right, has denied accusations that allowing athletes to compete under the banner "Olympic Athletes from Russia" was done to appease the country's President Vladimir Putin, left ©Getty Images

Bach claimed that allowing eligible individual Russian athletes to compete in Pyeongchang 2018, due to take place between February 9 to 25, under the name "Olympic Athletes from Russia" - OAR - was an "acknowledgement of reality".

Clean Russian athletes invited to the Games "must endure a degree of collective punishment, even though they are individually innocent," he added.

"[But] you cannot - and this is a fine line - humiliate these athletes by depriving them of their origins," Bach said, explaining why the name OAR would be used.

A total of 43 Russian athletes have been suspended for life by the IOC after being found guilty of doping offences at Sochi 2014. 

It is unclear whether the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) will confirm all the suspensions.

Bach recalled that in a doping issue involving Austrian athletes in 2006 in Turin, the CAS confirmed all lifelong Olympic bans by the IOC.