More than 20,000 doping tests will have been conducted by the start of next year's Pyeongchang winter Olympics as the International Olympic Committee's pre-Games testing programme hopes to root out cheats in advance, it said on Tuesday.
Russian athletes are among those targeted most with the nation awaiting the IOC decision on its participation at February's Pyeongchang winter Olympics following the widespread doping scandal in the country.
"It is 7,000 (total) tests so far until November on 4,000 athletes," IOC medical chief Richard Budgett told reporters.
"There will be a lot more in the coming two or three months as we are in the winter season. I suspect the total number of tests will be 20,000."
The targeted pre-Games testing task force, jointly run by WADA, the IOC and winter and summer sports federations, advises federations and National Olympic committees to test specific athletes.
"The Russian athletes have been tested more than other by a considerable margin," Budgett said. "Requirements have been issued to the international federations and RUSADA (Russian anti-doping agency) for the level of testing of those athletes."
Russia has been in the spotlight since a report by a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) commission in 2015 found evidence of state-sponsored doping in Russia and accused it of systematically violating anti-doping regulations.
A further WADA report in 2016 found that more than 1,000 Russian competitors in more than 30 sports had been involved in a conspiracy to conceal positive drug tests over a five-year period.
Kremlin vows to defend Russian athletes after lost Sochi medals over doping
Russia will take steps to defend the interests of its athletes who were disqualified and stripped of their medals from the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics for doping, the Kremlin said on Monday.The International Olympic Committee (IOC) this month annulled the results of 14 Russian athletes who competed in Sochi because of doping violations.They were stripped of their medals and banned for life from participating in future Olympics.The decisions followed an IOC investigation into allegations of state-backed doping among Russian competitors and sample tampering by laboratory and security officials at Sochi."The main thing is to persistently and energetically take all possible measures to protect our legitimate interests and the legitimate interests of our athletes together with international sports organisations," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters at a conference call.Galeri: Torch lit for Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics"One can hardly steal a victory that has already been won, especially a victory that will forever stay with our hero athletes," he said.Russia was first in the medal table at the end of the Games but the IOC decisions bring down their number of gold medals to nine, behind Canada and Norway.The bans have so far targeted athletes in four disciplines: cross-country skiing, skeleton, bobsleigh and speed skating.Those banned and stripped of their medals include double gold medallist Alexander Zubkov, who also serves as president of Russia's bobsleigh federation, and cross country skier Alexander Legkov, who won gold in the 50km freestyle and a silver medal in the 4x10km relay event.Peskov did not spell out what measures Russia could take. But the federations governing these sports in Russia have said they will seek to contest the IOC's decisions at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).Despite calls to cooperate with international bodies to help rid Russia of doping, the Russian authorities have never acknowledged any state role in the scandal.The IOC is re-testing all Russian athletes' samples from the 2014 Games following revelations by Grigory Rodchenkov, the former head of Moscow's discredited anti-doping laboratory, of a scheme to cover up home competitors' positive samples.The Sochi scandal is part of a broader doping affair that has led to the suspension of Russia's anti-doping agency RUSADA, its athletics federation and Paralympic Committee.The IOC has said it would decide during its executive board meeting next month on the participation of Russian competitors at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in February. Olympics: In Yuna's absence, Koreans holding out for a Pyeongchang heroThousands bid farewell to sportsman of the century
Olympics: In Yuna's absence, Koreans holding out for a Pyeongchang hero
A year after her dazzling gold medal-winning performance at the Vancouver Games, figure skater Kim Yuna delivered an impassioned speech to the International Olympic Committee that helped sway the vote to bring the 2018 Winter Games to South Korea.Dubbed the "Face of Pyeongchang" after crisscrossing the globe to garner support for the bid, Kim's charm offensive was equally effective in Korea as she helped sell the vision of a home Olympics on snow and ice despite the country having little prior interest in winter sports.Even after her retirement from competition in 2014, the nation's favourite athlete has played a key role in preparations for Pyeongchang -- from carrying the Olympic flame off a flight from Greece to fronting global advertising campaigns as an honorary ambassador for the Games.But while there is no escaping Kim's shadow ahead of the Games, she will be missing from the one place her fans long to see her most -- on the Pyeongchang ice, skating for Olympic gold and South Korean glory.Kim's retirement has left the host nation without a true winter sports "hero" to get behind and some see that as a major factor behind sluggish ticket sales."Is it any wonder Koreans have lost interest in the Games now that their star athlete is gone?" asked Lee Dae-taek, director of the Center for Sport Culture."Kim Yuna and the short track team were responsible for boosting interest in the Winter Olympics here," he told Reuters, adding that with so few successful local athletes competing in Pyeongchang, ticket sales were bound to lag.Less than three months before the world's top winter sports athletes arrive in Pyeongchang, figures from organisers show that of 750,000 tickets earmarked for domestic sale, only 177,000 (23.6 percent) had been snapped up."Who wants to go see the Games when South Koreans are losing all the time?" Lee added.Yuna, only YunaRoger Park, a professor at Hanyang University's Sports Industry Department, said that without Kim Yuna, South Korea did not have a high-profile sporting "hero" to carry the Games."The only way to spark interest is through storytelling -- the tale of an athlete going in search of further Olympic success, or the hard-luck story of another looking for redemption," Park added."But right now we just don't have any such athletes. And I don't see enough efforts from the government or Olympic committee in promoting Winter Olympians."For many South Koreans, interest in winter sports started and finished with their figure skating queen."I don't really know anyone other than Kim Yuna," said 19-year-old Jung So-yeon when asked who she would be cheering for during the 2018 Games.Lee Chae-won, 14, told Reuters she hoped the Games would make more South Korean athletes household names."I can't think of any (winter sports) athletes other than Kim Yuna," she said. "I hope the coming Olympics will be an opportunity for us to get to know more of them."Security concernsFormer Prime Minister Han Seung-soo downplayed Kim Yuna's absence and said it was political upheaval that had served to dampen enthusiasm for sport."Interest in the Pyeongchang Olympics has been declining mainly due to the political chaos which prompted candlelight vigil across the country, ultimately ousting former President Park Geun-hye," Han, who led Pyeongchang's unsuccessful bid for the 2014 Games, told Reuters.But while South Korea was indeed caught up in the maelstrom of a president's impeachment, Park was removed from office eight months ago and new President Moon Jae-in has since restored a sense of calm to domestic politics.Some observers have also highlighted the impact of security concerns on ticket sales, though worries about North Korea's nuclear and missile programs are more likely to drag on international purchases rather than domestic sales.With the clocking ticking down to the Games, there seems little time to craft a new narrative of Korean athletes going for gold at the 2018 Olympics.The short track team should add to their record 21 golds while the patchwork ice hockey squad woven together by former Stanley Cup winner Jim Paek has the potential to deliver the kind of 'David v Goliath' storyline the country can respond to.However, the stage could also be set for an 'anti-hero' to ruin the mood with Russian short track skater Viktor Ahn ready to return to his native South Korea seeking to end is incredible career on a high.Galeri: Torch lit for Pyeongchang 2018 Winter OlympicsAhn won his first three Olympic golds for Korea in Turin but after losing his place in the team due to injury and falling out with the Korea Skating Union, switched allegiance to Russia and won three more in 2014.His Sochi success sparked an outcry in South Korea as the country demanded to know why Ahn had felt forced to defect.While Russia's participation remains in the hands of the IOC due to continuining concerns about its anti-doping programme, Hanyang professor Park said a repeat performance by Ahn in February could spoil the Pyeongchang party."As host nation, South Korea wants to win as many medals as possible," added Park. "So (if Ahn wins) it would give rise to a sense of bitterness."
Pyeongchang 2018 Games torch lit in ancient Olympia
The torch for the Pyeongchang 2018 winter Olympics was lit in ancient Olympia on Tuesday using the backup flame from the dress rehearsal due to rainy weather, kicking off the countdown for the first winter Games in Asia outside Japan.The run-up to the Feb. 9-25 Olympics has been overshadowed by the escalating crisis on the Korean peninsula triggered by North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile tests.The torch was lit using Monday's dress rehearsal flame as clouds and light rain during the ceremony did not allow for the high priestess, played by actress Katerina Lechou, to use the concave reflector and light it using the sun's rays."Our dream of hosting the Olympic winter Games has now become a reality. Korea is only the second Asian nation to have the honour of hosting the winter Games," Games chief Lee Hee-beom said."We want the international community to understand that we are committed to hosting a safe and secure Olympic winter Games."Galeri: Torch lit for Pyeongchang 2018 Winter OlympicsThe short ceremony inside the stadium used during the ancient Greek Olympics, was also attended by South Korean Prime Minister Lee Nak-yeon."The Olympic Games are sacred and universal," IOC President Thomas Bach said."They stand above and beyond all the differences that divide us. In our fragile world that seems to be drifting apart, the Olympic Games have the power to unite humanity in all its diversity."Former Manchester United midfielder Park Ji-sung was the first South Korean to run with the torch, picking up the flame from Greece's Nordic skier Apostolos Aggelis, the first torch-bearer, just outside the ancient stadium.The flame will arrive in South Korea on Nov. 1 for the start of the domestic torch relay as organisers look to boost local enthusiasm amid low ticket sales.Tensions on the Korean peninsula have risen in recent months as Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump exchanged threats and insults over the North's nuclear and missile development programme.
In the last month, the IOC's own commission has banned more than 20 Russian athletes from the Olympics for life over doping violations at the 2014 Winter Games that Russia hosted in Sochi. WADA has said that Russia remains "non-compliant" with its code.
The IOC will decide later on Tuesday if Russia will be allowed to compete at the Pyeongchang Games in South Korea from Feb. 9-25.