Russian speed skater Graf rejects Olympics invitation to compete as neutral athlete

Speed skater Olga Graf has become the first eligible Russian athlete to turn down an invitation to compete under a neutral flag at the Winter Olympics.

Graf - a double bronze medallist in 2014 - was one of 169 clean Russian athletes cleared to compete in Pyeongchang after the country was banned from the event over state-sponsored doping in Sochi four years ago.

But the 34-year-old says the sport has become "a bargaining chip in dirty political games" and has opted against taking part in South Korea.

"I'm glad that the IOC has recognised me as a clean athlete, which I am," Graf said in a Facebook post.

"But I regret that more than half the national speed skating team did not receive invitations to the Olympics, including my partners in the team pursuit, who I don't doubt are clean.

"Having been deprived of the chance to compete for the Olympic podium in the team pursuit, I do not accept the IOC invitation for the XXIII Olympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang."

The Winter Olympics get under way on February 9.

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