Russian athletes speak out against U.S. Olympic participation

Hints of Russians’ Return to International Sports Rekindle Debate Over Their Exclusion

The U.S. government has long denied Russian athletes visas to compete in the United States. At the same time, the U.S. State Department has been working to get Russian teams back on the international map. Their reintegration into the international sports scene, however, is still in its infancy.

A pair of prominent Russian athletes, with one still in the U.S. and the other based in Europe, have been vocal advocates for increased U.S. team participation in international sports. One has said that if the U.S. allows an Olympic team from Russia, he expects the majority will be able to return home soon.

The other, Kuznetsova, is based in Europe and is the national coach for Bulgaria. He says he would like to see the U.S. team at the 2018 games in PyeongChang, South Korea, and for an Olympic team to be allowed.

Both men were recently the subjects of the first video interviews by a non-U.S. source to appear on Russian state-funded television networks in English. The interviews, which were conducted for Russia’s Sports-1, a channel produced by the sports ministry to promote the country internationally, offer insight into the motivation of the Russian athletes, and the difficulties of achieving Olympic participation on the home soil.

The interview of Ivan Kuznetsova, the Bulgarian national women’s basketball coach, is shown below:

“Why do you think Russian athletes should be allowed to compete in the Olympics?”

“I think we should be allowed to compete in the Olympics,” he said. “I think it is a good idea – but of course the Americans should be able to say so too, as well as our [Bulgarian] team. I think we should be able to be there.�

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