Tuesday afternoon, the International Olympic Committee handed down an unprecedented punishment to Russia after the country participated in a doping scheme at the Sochi games. The country was banned from participating at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, but individual athletes, who are confirmed to be clean, could compete under a neutral flag.
On Wednesday, reporters spoke to Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov after the Capitals morning skate. The two Capitals players were likely shoe-ins on Russia’s olympic hockey team if not for Gary Bettman’s decision to forbid the NHLPA from participating.
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) December 6, 2017
“Obviously it’s hard for athlete,” Ovechkin said when asked his thoughts on the complex situation. “Some athlete like workout three years, get ready for Olympics, and it’s hard, you know? It’s a tough situation. I think our athletes have to go and do their best.”
When asked specifically by NBC Sports Washington’s Tarik El-Bashir if the Russian hockey team should still go to South Korea, Ovechkin encouraged the team to play under a neutral flag.
“I support it,” Ovechkin replied. “It was funny. We come today and some guys in Russia said we should back out. I never say that. I support our decision, hockey team. I’m pretty sure they’re going and I’m going to cheer for them.”
Ovechkin’s thoughts, however, remained with the athletes who were disadvantaged because of the ban.
“They work so hard to get ready and do their best in Olympic games,” Ovechkin said. “It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. It’s hard.”
— Tarik El-Bashir (@TarikNBCS) December 6, 2017
Meanwhile, Capitals star center Evgeny Kuznetsov believed the players should all collectively come to an agreement before deciding what to do.
“Me personally, I would probably still go, but if we talk about hockey it should be a team decision and they will make the decision that is best,” Kuznetsov said. “Like I said, personally, I would still go because I know that the Russian fans in the tournament. If you win a medal, they will sing the national anthem for you. It probably will be best and lots of Russian people will sing the national anthem. Some of the other athletes, doesn’t make decision yet, but like I said for me personally I would still probably go because for some people it’s four years preparing.”
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