ARLINGTON, Va. -- Alex Ovechkin's hopes of representing Russia in the 2022 Olympics may already be dashed, not by the NHL, but by the World Anti-Doping Agency. The WADA executive committee handed down a four-year ban to the Russia on Monday, barring the country from competing in all major sporting events subject to the World Anti-Doping Code including the 2020 Summer Olympic Games and the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing.
Olympic participation is a major sticking point between the NHL and players and the NHL did not allow players to take part in the 2018 games in PyeongChang, South Korea. Now it appears that even if the players are allowed to go to Beijing, Ovechkin will not be able to fully represent his native country.
“I just heard it today," Ovechkin said. "Obviously, it’s sad news but I think I’m gonna have more information later. It’s bad. I feel bad for people working so hard for this moment and they can’t be there. I just hear it right before practice, so I don’t have much information on it.”
Russia was also banned in 2018, but its athletes were still allowed to compete. They represented a neutral flag and were referred to as the Olympic Athletes from Russia.
While Ovechkin was certainly disappointed by the news of the ban, he sounded hopeful that there would still be an avenue for him to compete if in fact NHL players would be allowed to go.
"It’s always disappointing to hear something like that," Ovechkin said. "I hope everything’s going to be well. We still have a long time ‘til the Olympics to figure out what to do. What’s better to do. Hope everything’s going to be fine.”
Without any NHL participation, the Olympic Athletes entered the 2018 Olympics favored and did, in fact, take home the gold. Ovechkin said his excitement for cheering on his home nation was not dampened by the fact that they were not able to wear a Russian jersey or represent the Russian flag.
“To be honest with you I just looked at the scores and cheered for our guys," he said. "I didn’t pay too much attention [to] it. I was just happy for our guys scoring goals.”
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