Vladimir Putin denies unusual autograph request from Russian Paralympic champion

Russian President Vladimir Putin rejected an autograph request from a double gold medal-winning champion at the recent Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.

Swimmer Andrei Nikolaev enjoyed a superb debut games, winning gold in the S8 class in 4x100m medley and men's 400m freestyle, and silver in the men's 100m freestyle.

His contribution helped the Russian team finish fourth in the official medal standings with 36 gold, 33 silver and 49 bronze for a total of 118 medals. Only China, Great Britain and the United States won more.

However, when the team met Putin at a special homecoming ceremony, the 21-year-old had an unusual request, asking the President if he would sign his passport.

While keen to congratulate Nikolaev, and the Russian Paralympic Committee team on their success in Tokyo, Putin, 68, decided signing the official document was a step too far.

"Not in the passport, the passport's a document, you'll ruin it!", he said.

The President then explained were he to sign, his signature would then be on two passports, reasoning that Nikolaev seemed to accept.

Shortly after after the ceremony, Putin went into isolation after a member of his entourage tested positive for Covid-19.

However, Kremlin Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov insisted that it would not be deterring him running the country: “The president is absolutely in good health," he said.

Should Russian athletes have been able to compete in Tokyo? Let us know in thecomments section.

"Isolation will not affect his work," Peskov added.

"But there will be no face-to-face events for some time.”

Despite Putin marking the success of the athletes, the participation of Russian athletes in both the Olympics and Paralympics was the subject of much controversy.

Back in December 2019, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) banned Russia from all international sport for four years, after it was found that data provided by the Russian Anti-Doping Agency had been manipulated to cover up a state-sponsored doping scheme.

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Russian athletes were however, deemed free to participate in the Paralympics under a neutral flag.

Russia later appealed against the WADA decision to the Court of Arbitration of Sport (CAS), and in December 2020, successfully had the suspension reduced to two years.

Therefore in both the Olympics and Paralympics this summer, Russian athletes participated under the flag of the Russian Paralympic Committee, rather than under a neutral flag. For all victory ceremonies, Pyotr Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No 1 was used instead of the Russian national anthem.

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