Putin apologized to the athletes

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With AP Photos.Russian President Vladimir Putin has told the country's athletes to forget about doping scandals when they compete at the Pyeongchang Olympics.

Olympic events in North Korea the countries had agreed to. Putin also repeated a claim he made last month that Rodchenkov, who is under witness protection in the United States and says he fears for his life, is "under the control of the US special services".

US officials said the State Department's Diplomatic Security Service was the lead USA agency helping South Korean authorities with security, a role it has undertaken at every Olympics since the 1976 Montreal games.

Putin suggested that sports have become mixed up with politics and apologised for not being able to shield the athletes from that. "But you and all sports fans should not have any doubts that Russian Federation will always perform, and has performed, and will support the ideas of clean sports in all senses, in all respects", Putin said.

South Korea will begin a joint training programme at the Masikryong ski resort in North Korea on Wednesday as had been initially planned, the South's Ministry of Unification said, with a 45-person delegation set to depart for a two-day trip.

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The International Olympic Committee banned Russian Federation from next month's event in South Korea after a report on a vast Moscow-backed doping scheme in previous Games.

Among them are speed skaters Ivan Skobrev, a two-time medalist at the Vancouver 2010 Games, and Artem Kuznetcov. Russian athletes not connected with the investigation of the world anti-doping Agency, will be without the national anthem and under the Olympic flag.

The decision is part of an International Olympic Committee investigation into doping of Russian athletes at the 2014 winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Ironically, Russia has been banned from this year's games-giving the United States a push forward in the race.

He reserved scathing remarks for Grigory Rodchenkov, the former head of the Moscow anti-doping laboratory who described running a doping program and cover-ups over several years on orders from Russian government officials.

The IOC banned Russia from competing in them in December, but has invited 169 Russians to compete as neutrals.

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