Russian state television said Friday it would not broadcast the Winter Olympics from South Korea next year if the Russian team is banned from the games over doping.
The International Olympic Committee’s executive board is due to meet next month to consider whether Russia can compete in Pyeongchang in February, after evidence of widespread cheating emerged in 2015.
“If our team is barred from participating in the Winter Olympics, our channels will not show the games,” the press service of the All-Russia State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company (VGTRK) was quoted as saying by Interfax news agency.
The Kremlin said it could “understand” the decision of the state media group.
“Broadcasting the Olympic Games requires the acquisition of rights that are very expensive. These sums are clearly spent in the hope of great interest from Russian viewers,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
“If our team is not participating in the Olympics then the interest of Russian viewers in these programmes will be reduced.
“But it is still too soon to talk about that. Preparations for the Olympics are ongoing and our sporting authorities are continuing with great patience in dialogue with international sporting bodies,” he said.
– ‘Goal to discredit Russia’ –
“What’s the point of showing the Games if our athletes aren’t there?” asked Vitaly Mutko, Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister with responsibility for sport.
“Judging by the early decisions that have been made (by international bodies) we can see the direction all this is going in,” said Mutko in comments carried by RIA Novosti news agency.
“If the goal is to discredit Russia and Russian sport, that is being achieved.”
Three Russian channels were originally set to broadcast the games: VGTRK’s Rossiya 1, the state-controlled Channel One and the sports network Match TV, which is indirectly owned by the gas giant Gazprom.
Channel One will also boycott the games if the national team is banned, the Russian business daily Vedomosti reported. Channel One would not immediately comment when contacted.
Match TV said its agreements to screen the games were still in force.
“Nobody has banned Russia from the Games. We don’t see any point in discussing the subject today,” spokesman Levan Matua told AFP.
This week the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) maintained their suspension of the Russian body, RUSADA, which was first imposed in 2015.
Following allegations of a doping scheme by athletes in a 2015 documentary, the independent 2016 McLaren report detailed a state-sponsored doping conspiracy that included the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, where the hosts topped the medals table.
Russia has denied any accusation of state-sponsored doping and the Kremlin slammed WADA’s decision to maintain Russia’s decision this week as “unfair”.
In 2016, the IOC ignored WADA’s calls to ban Russia from the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro over the McLaren report, instead leaving the decision to individual sports bodies.