IOC bans three Russian bobsledders for life over doping

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[November 29, 2017]  LAUSANNE (Reuters) - The International Olympic Committee said on Wednesday it had banned for life three Russian bobsledders - Aleksandr Kasyanov, Aleksei Pushkarev and Ilvir Khuzin - over doping allegations related to the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

The IOC is re-testing all Russian athletes' samples from the event after Grigory Rodchenkov, the former head of Moscow's discredited anti-doping laboratory, blew the whistle on what he said was a state-sponsored doping program.

Russia denies his allegations, saying it is the victim of a politicized dirty tricks campaign designed to besmirch its reputation and curb its sporting success.

The IOC's latest move brings the total number of Russian athletes handed life bans to over 20 this month.

The Kremlin earlier on Wednesday said it would act to protect the rights of Russian athletes, slamming the bans as part of a broad anti-Russian campaign in the West.

"We strongly reject all allegations that the state may have been involved in any way in forcing doping on Russian athletes," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told a conference call with reporters.

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Rodchenkov, who prosecutors in Russia accuse of forcing sportspeople to resort to doping was "already an odious figure in Russia", Peskov said.

"Unfortunately, his sponsors and those sheltering him have a tin ear about this ... And therefore the situation certainly remains complicated and the interests of our athletes suffer."

The IOC's executive board is due to take a decision in December on the participation of Russian athletes in the next Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang in 2018 based on the findings of an IOC Disciplinary Commission chaired by Samuel Schmid, a former president of Switzerland, the IOC said.

(Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Additional reporting and writing by Dmitry Solovyov; Editing by Andrew Osborn)

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