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Russian speedskater Olga Graf rejects Olympic invite

Russian speedskater Olga Graf rejects Olympic invite
Russia's Olga Graf, shown in 2016, said Tuesday she's refusing her place at the Winter Olympics after several teammates weren't invited. (Peter Dejong / Associated Press)

Speedskater Olga Graf became the first athlete from embattled Russia to decline an invitation to the 2018 Winter Olympics.

Though the International Olympic Committee has banned the nation in response to a doping scandal, it has offered individual athletes a chance to participate under a neutral flag if they can prove they have not cheated.

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"I am glad that the IOC commission has recognized me as a pure athlete, which I am, but I am sorry that more than half the speedskating team did not receive an invitation," Graf posted on Facebook.

The IOC recently invited 169 Russians to be part of the "Olympic Athlete from Russia" squad, but the 34-year-old Graf — who won two bronze medals in the last Winter Games — noted that some of her most-decorated teammates, including six-time gold-medalist Viktor Ahn, have been excluded.

Russia has been heavily sanctioned in the wake of investigations that found widespread cheating among athletes, coaches and officials. There has been evidence that lab workers altered samples to keep Russians from testing positive.

On Tuesday, President Vladimir Putin repeated his claim that politics have played a role in the matter, but said he hopes Russia can move forward in cooperation with the IOC and other governing bodies in sport.

"Do we need to work with international organizations?" he was quoted as saying by the Tass news agency. "Of course, we do and we will do so."

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