Russia expects doping ban to be lifted in 'next few days'
Moscow, Feb 25 (AFP) Russia said on Sunday it expected to have the doping ban lifted in the "next few days," saying restoring the rights of its athletes could become a major result of the Olympic Games.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) voted unanimously to keep Russia's ban for mass doping, meaning Russian athletes will not be able to march behind their flag at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics closing ceremony later Sunday.
But IOC said the suspension would be lifted -- an IOC source said in "a few days or a few weeks" -- if no further positive drug tests come out of the Games, where two Russians tested positive for doping.
"We hope and count on the recovery of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) membership in the IOC within the next few days," the committee said in a statement.
"Our absolute priority is the status of our country and the interests of our athletes," the statement said.
Restoring the rights of the ROC and the rights of "all the Russian athletes will be the major outcome" of the Games, the statement added.
The vote to maintain the ban for the time being followed a recommendation from the IOC's executive board, which met Saturday and early Sunday to thrash out Russia's fate.
The IOC "could have considered lifting the suspension given that the Olympic Athletes from Russia (OAR) had respected the IOC's decision of December 5," IOC president Thomas Bach said.
"However, two Russian athletes tested positive for doping here in Pyeongchang."
The ROC pointed out that the IOC voted to lift its suspension after the completion of all doping tests of the samples taken during the Games.
"According to the standing order, it takes 72 hours to implement the test procedure," the ROC statement said.
Russia was formally banned in December from taking part in the 2018 Olympics following revelations of widespread drug-cheating, but 168 athletes deemed "clean" were allowed to compete as neutrals.
They were representing "Olympic Athletes from Russia" under strict guidelines including a ban on Russia's flag, national colours and the national anthem