Russian speedskater refuses IOC invitation to Olympics

Russian speedskater refuses IOC invitation to Olympics
FILE - In this Friday, March 11, 2016 file photo, Russia's Olga Graf skates during the women's 3000 meter race of the Speedskating World Cup final at Thialf ice rink in Heerenveen, Netherlands. Graf, a Russian speedskater says she's refusing her place at the Winter Olympics after several teammates weren't invited, it was reported on Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2018. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong, File)

MOSCOW (AP) — A Russian speedskater refused her place at the Pyeongchang Olympics on Tuesday after several of her teammates weren’t invited.

Olga Graf, a two-time bronze medalist from the 2014 Sochi Games, had targeted a medal in the team pursuit race next month.

“All my hopes to compete for the Olympic podium are fated not to be realized because sport has become a bargaining chip in filthy political games,” Graf said in a statement on social media.

Graf is the first Russian to refuse an IOC invitation to compete at the Pyeongchang Games. That leaves 168 “Olympic Athletes from Russia” who must compete under a neutral flag because of IOC sanctions related to doping at the Sochi Olympics.

As part of the punishment, Russian athletes can compete by invitation only. Some top medal contenders were excluded from the list.

Russia was left with only three eligible women’s speedskaters, including Graf. Three women race in the team pursuit, but of the three Russian women, one is a sprint specialist unsuited to the longer event. Graf could have competed in some individual races.

“I’m happy that the IOC commission declared me a clean athlete, which I am, but I am saddened that more than half of our national speedskating team didn’t get invited to the Olympics, and I don’t doubt they are also clean,” Graf wrote. “Since we have been deprived of the chance to fight for the Olympic podium in the team sprint, I don’t accept the IOC invitation.”

Graf won bronze in the team pursuit and the 3,000-meter individual race in Sochi.

Russian athletes will miss out on other relays, too. The men’s speedskating team pursuit is no longer an option with only one skater eligible, and there are only three skaters for the four-man short-track 5,000-meter relay.

In biathlon, Russia has two men and two women eligible. That rules out the men’s and women’s relays, which need four competitors of each gender, though the mixed relay could still be an option.