Speed skater Semen Elistratov, the first athlete from Russia to win a medal at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, is reportedly under investigation by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) after he dedicated his accomplishment to compatriots he said had been banned from the Winter Games in a “such a hard and unfair way.”
“I have difficulties to hold back my tears,” Elistratov said at a press conference following his third-place finish in the men’s 1500m short track speed skating event on Saturday, according to The Guardian. “I am incredibly happy that I did it, in spite of all the circumstances around Russian sport. I dedicate this medal to all guys that have been excluded from these Games in such a hard and unfair way. This medal is for you.”
The BBC reported that the IOC ― which banned Russia from competing at the Winter Olympics over its state-backed doping program ― was investigating Elistratov’s comments because of their apparently political nature. As one of the athletes competing at Pyeongchang under the banner of the Olympic Athletes from Russia team, Elistatrov must follow strict IOC guidelines, including not wearing his country’s colors and refraining from “any public form of publicity, activity and communication associated with the national flag, anthem, emblem and symbol.”
“We have a surveillance program looking at the action and behavior of the OAR team and they will report back at the end of the Games to the executive board to see if not just the letter but the spirit of the law has been breached,” IOC spokesman Mark Adams told the BBC. “It’s for that expert team to look at it.”
As CNN noted, Elistratov was suspended from skating in 2016 after the banned heart drug meldonium was found in his system. He was later granted amnesty by the World Anti-Doping Agency, which determined that low concentrations of the drug found in samples before March 1, 2016, were acceptable.