MOSCOW, Russia– President Vladimir Putin on Thursday insisted Russia’s athletes should be allowed to compete under the Russian flag, despite a four-year ban handed down by the World Anti-Doping Agency from major sporting events over systematic violations.

“If WADA does not have any issues with our national Olympic committee our team must compete under its flag,” Putin said during an annual end-of-year news conference, insisting that most of Russia’s athletes were clean.

“Any punishment should be individual,” he added.

“If a majority of our athletes are clean how is it possible to slap sanctions against them for someone else’s actions?”

He reiterated his opinion that the WADA ban was politically motivated.

“The WADA decision contradicts the Olympic Charter,” Putin added.

WADA this month banned Russia for four years from major global sporting events, including the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, over manipulated doping data. 

Russia’s anti-doping agency was set on Thursday to decide whether to launch an appeal against the WADA ban.

This formal disagreement with WADA would trigger the process of appeal against the ban at the Lausanne-based Court of Arbitration for Sport.

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