Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin said he would support Russian athletes participating in the upcoming Winter Olympics in South Korea, even though the Russian flag and anthem will be absent after the International Olympic Committee decided to ban the Russian federation as punishment for widespread doping Olympic officials believe was supported by the government. Russian athletes who can prove their innocence of drug cheating will be permitted to compete in PyeongChang under the designation of an “Olympic Athlete from Russia (OAR).” The Olympic anthem will be played in any ceremony for medals won by these athletes, and Russia’s official medal count for the games will stand at zero. “Obviously, it’s hard for athletes,” Ovechkin said. “Some athletes work out for maybe three years to get ready for the Olympics. It’s hard. It’s tough situation. I think our athletes have to go and do their best.” Ovechkin and other Russian NHL players were already ruled out for the Olympics after the NHL announced earlier this year that it would not interrupt its season for the February Games. The league also received assurance from the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF), which oversees international competitions, that NHL players under contract won’t be allowed to participate.