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Putin Congratulates Russian Olympic Medalists

Russian President Vladimir Putin has congratulated his nation's Olympic medalists, but says the country did not do enough to support its athletes at last month's Winter Games in Salt Lake City - or to deflect scandals.

Mr. Putin says the success of a nation's athletes depends on their talents and coaching and on the professionalism of lawyers and doctors. He said Russia has been weak in the latter categories.

The Russian leader made the comments during a Tuesday meeting with Russia's olympic athletes at his home in suburban Moscow.

The athletes found themselves at the center of doping and judging scandals at the games, and Russian officials accused the North American media of bias. At the time, Mr. Putin said Russian sports officials and the International Olympic Committee shared the blame. On Tuesday, Mr. Putin said the Salt Lake City games proved that the Olympics are not only about sports but also business and propaganda. He said Russia needs to build new sports facilities and do more to combat doping. Despite the disappointments, Putin said Russia should be proud of its athletes.

Among the medalists with Mr. Putin were Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze, who were forced to share their gold medal in pairs figure skating with Canadians Jamie Sale and David Pelletier.

Also in attendance were figure skating silver medalist Irina Slutskaya, whose medal was protested by the Russian Figure Skating Federation because it was not gold, and skier Larissa Lazutina, who lost one of her gold medals after a positive drug test.