Alex Ovechkin throws support behind Russian athletes in wake of Olympic ban

Russian hockey star Alex Ovechkin said Wednesday he’ll be firmly behind his countrymen when they compete under a neutral flag at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.

On Tuesday, the IOC ruled that Russia has been banned from next year’s Games after a 17-month investigation found a “systemic manipulation of the anti-doping rules and system” by the country at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Russian athletes, however, will be allowed to compete, albeit as individual athletes and not as representatives of the country. 

Asked in the Capitals’ locker room if he is in favor of Russian athletes competing or would rather see them boycott the Games as a show of support for their nation, Ovechkin said, “I support it. It was funny, I woke up today and some guys in Russia said we should boycott, but I never said that. I support our decision, the hockey team, and I’m pretty sure they’re going, and I’m gonna cheer for them.”

The Olympics are near and dear to Ovechkin’s heart, and he was dismayed by the NHL’s decision not to allow its players to participate in the 2018 Games, but the Russians putting a team on the ice in Pyeongchang in not a certainty, ESPN.com noted. 

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