ROC first vice president Stanislav Pozdnyakov has asked the IOC for an explanation behind the bans of several Russian athletes ©FIE

The Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) have confirmed that they have sent a letter to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) requesting the reasons behind the Pyeongchang 2018 bans of Viktor Ahn, Anton Shipulin and Sergey Ustiugov.

It was announced yesterday that Ahn, who is revered as the world's most successful Olympic short track speed skater with six gold medals, was banned from the upcoming Winter Olympics.

He initially competed for Pyeongchang host nation South Korea, the country of his birth, before switching to Russia in 2011.

Bans for biathlete Shipulin, an Olympic champion, and two-time world champion cross-country skier Ustiugov have been confirmed today.

All three are reportedly among 111 athletes excluded by the IOC after the ROC drew up a 500-athlete shortlist for consideration for Pyeongchang 2018 selection.

This was necessitated after the country was ordered to compete neutrally at the Games by the IOC, following its Oswald and Schmid Commissions investigating widespread doping and sample tampering at Russia's home Sochi 2014 Olympics.

The team will be known as Olympic Athletes from Russia (OAR).

Le Monde has reported that Ahn's samples could have been among those manipulated in Sochi.

As reported by Sputnik, ROC first vice president and five-time Olympic champion fencer Stanislav Pozdnyakov, who confirmed that the letter had been sent to the IOC, said: "Athletes, such as Ahn, Shipulin or Ustiugov, were not involved in the proceedings within the framework of the Oswald Commission, they were also never involved in any doping scandals, and all the numerous tests they took during their career prove that they are 'clean' athletes.

"Nevertheless, their names are currently included in the list of potential participants of the Games.

"As regards all the other items on the agenda of the talks related to technical and organisational issues, a lot of work has also been done, but now we focus, first of all, on the composition of our team.

"I would like to emphasise that at the moment all the information is preliminary.

"Today we will discuss the situation with the sports federations and continue the dialogue with the IOC, after which final decisions will be made."

Viktor Ahn won three gold medals and one bronze representing Russia at Sochi 2014 ©Getty Images
Viktor Ahn won three gold medals and one bronze representing Russia at Sochi 2014 ©Getty Images

The Russian Figure Skating Federation have also announced that two-time Olympic medallist Ksenia Stolbova and others have been excluded from the Games, claiming that the IOC was trying to provoke Russia into a boycott.

"We are deeply disappointed in this baseless IOC decision which is reminiscent of a provocation with the aim of forcing Russian athletes by any means possible to decline to participate in the Games," they said to Associated Press.

Mikhail Degtyarev, the head of the State Duma Committee on Sport, told Echo Moskvy that "this is what they [the IOC] want from us".

"The scenario is to present Russia as an evil, incompetent and isolated country," he said.

The IOC have since released a statement quoting Valerie Fourneyron, the chair of the Independent Testing Authority and former French Sports Minister, who chaired the OAR Invitation Review Panel.

The organisation claims they cannot comment on individual cases.

"When putting this list together, the Invitation Review Panel that I chaired wanted to ensure that only clean Russian athletes could be invited to the Olympic Winter Games," Fourneyron said.

"By carefully looking at all the evidence available we wanted to be absolutely certain that there was not the slightest doubt or suspicion against any of those athletes who will be invited. 

"Not being included on the invitation list does not necessarily mean that an athlete has been doped - it should not automatically cast doubt on their integrity."

Grigory Rodchenkov has been testifying at Court of Arbitration for Sport hearings this week ©Netflix
Grigory Rodchenkov has been testifying at Court of Arbitration for Sport hearings this week ©Netflix

It comes with the appeal hearings of 39 Russian athletes against their Olympic bans currently being heard by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Geneva.

Russian whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov has testified but, according to Echo Moskvy, his face was hidden.

Sport Express speculated last week that Rodchenkov would only be appearing at the hearing via audio link, leading some to claim that it could not be certain it was him.

All of the athletes have been sanctioned by the IOC for their alleged involvement in the doping and sample tampering scheme at Sochi 2014.

A decision is expected to be announced between January 29 and February 2.