Richard Pound has criticised the IOC stance on Russian doping ©Getty Images

International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach attempted to defend his organisation's handling of the Russian doping crisis today by arguing how they have reached a "balance" between a fair punishment and a "humiliation" for the country.

He spoke as Richard Pound, the IOC's longest-serving member, became the latest to criticise the way in which they have supposedly prioritised Russia's return to the Olympic fold over a meaningful punishment.

Russian athletes deemed eligible to compete at next month's Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea will do so as part of a neutral team following evidence of what has been described as a "systemic manipulation" of the doping system at the last edition in Sochi.

The team will be called the "Olympic Athletes from Russia", however, and is set to be allowed to march under its own flag at the Closing Ceremony of the Games.

Canada's Pound told CBC that he found aspects of the decision "deeply troubling" and said that he would not attend the Closing Ceremony if Russia, as expected, are granted permission to march under their own flag. 

"Suspending the Russian team was a good start, but the farther down I got in reading the account of all of this, the more I realised that 99 per cent of what it was dealing with was how to get the Russians back in," Pound told the Canadian broadcaster. 

"They haven't atoned for or acknowledged, or taken any steps whatsoever, to guarantee that the same sort of thing won't happen again.

"It simply looks as if, when you're dealing with the IOC, if you deny, deny, deny and you happen to be a big country, just keep denying because they'll find a way to let the athletes from your country participate."

Thomas Bach has defended the IOC position today ©Getty Images
Thomas Bach has defended the IOC position today ©Getty Images

The IOC, however, have also faced mounting criticism in Russia over the last two days.

This is largely because of their failure to so far reveal their criteria for determining Russian eligibility - something that has been described as a shift away from their supposed commitment to "transparency".

It follows reports in Russia that short-track speed skater Viktor Ahn and leading biathlete and cross-country skier Anton Shipulin and Sergey Ustiugov were among those barred from the Games despite never having been publicly implicated in the doping investigation before.

A letter has been sent to the IOC this week, co-signed by International Ski Federation President Gian-Franco Kasper and International Biathlon Union counterpart Anders Besseberg, requesting more information about their decision-making process.

The final list of eligible Russian athletes is not expected to be announced before Saturday (January 27).

Bach insists that they have adopted a fair balance.

"The decision that we adopted in December is a kind of balance," he said today. 

"On the one hand, sanctions were imposed, which is that [at the Games] there will be no Russian flag.

"But on the other hand, it's not humiliation of Russia and Russian athletes - athletes have the opportunity to take part in the Games, but only a young and clean generation.

"These athletes will be ambassadors of a new, pure Russian sport."

Sergey Ustiugov is among top Russian winter athletes reportedly barred from Pyeongchang 2018 ©Getty Images
Sergey Ustiugov is among top Russian winter athletes reportedly barred from Pyeongchang 2018 ©Getty Images

Bach insisted that the priority of their eligibility criteria drawn up by a panel chaired by France's Valerie Fourneyron is to ensure that only clean athletes are competing. 

He confirmed that criteria used includes information in the Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) database obtained by the World Anti-Doping Agency and shared with the IOC last month.

"There could be suspicion and information from various sources that did not satisfy the Fourneyron Commission," Bach added.

"Our goal is not to impose sanctions, but to invite only pure Russian athletes to the Games. 

"If the athlete was invited, then the Commission did not have a shadow of doubt."

In other developments today, Dmitry Peskov, the spokesperson of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has encouraged "dialogue" with the IOC rather than any use of the word "boycott" - although he did not definitively rule-out such a stance in future.

"At present, it's probably important to avoid such words as 'boycott,'" Peskov said, according to Sport Express.

"In any case, we need to continue dialogue with the IOC."

Russian Sports Minister Pavel Kolobkov has also said that all those athletes who are unable to participate at the Olympics will receive "legal and financial support".

Thirty-nine of the 43 Russian athletes so far disqualified by the IOC from Sochi and handed life-bans from future Olympics are currently appealing to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Geneva.

They are accused of complicity in a scheme where tainted doping samples were illegally tampered with and replaced with fake, clean ones in Sochi.

The IOC is not thought to be obliged to allow any of these 39 to compete in Pyeongchang even if their appeals are successful.