IOC Bans Russia from 2018 Winter Olympics Amid Doping Scandal
On Tuesday, the International Olympic Committee announced that Russia has been banned from the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, for “systematic manipulation of the anti-doping rules and system.” While the Russian Olympic Committee is suspended from the games, the IOC will still allow certain clean Russian athletes to compete under a neutral flag.
Some May Still Compete
Those Russians that will be allowed to compete will be given the green light by a panel of IOC representatives. Any Russian that does compete in the games will be given the designation “Olympic Athlete from Russia (OAR) with a different uniform than the standard Russian outfit. Those athletes will also march behind the Olympic flag at the games’ opening ceremonies and they will hear the Olympic anthem at medal ceremonies.
Even if Russian athletes wind up winning medals in Pyeongchang, official record books will show that Russia won zero medals. This marks the first time a country’s federation has been banned from an Olympic games.
Officials from Russia’s Ministry of Sport, as well as any doctors, coaches or athletes that committed doping violations at the 2014 games in Sochi, are banned from the 2018 games. Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko and former Ministry of Sport official Yury Nagornykh are also banned from future games beyond 2018.
Russia will additionally be fined about $15 million to cover the costs of the IOC’s investigation and to “build the capacity and integrity of the global anti-doping system.”
The IOC’s president, Thomas Bach, said that the IOC will make efforts to reallocate medals from the 2014 Sochi games to their rightful winners in Pyeongchang. In the past, athletes that have won retroactive medals have received those medals in small ceremonies.
The IOC’s Schmid Commission was tasked with investigating allegations that Russia’s government was behind the organized doping in the summer of 2016. Much of the commission relied on testimony from Grigory Rodchenkov, who is a former Moscow laboratory director.
In May of 2016, Rodchenkov revealed details regarding Russia’s doping program in an interview with The New York Times. Rodchenkov provided a 52-page affidavit to the Schmid Commission detailing the conspiracy, as well as several diary entries. Those entries allowed Rodchenkov to attach names, times and dates regarding what went on in a laboratory in Sochi during the 2014 games.
Rodchenkov detailed examples of lab technicians swapping dirty urine samples for clean ones in order to ensure that doping Russian athletes would not be caught. The IOC’s ruling shows that Russia’s government backed a massive doping program comparable to East Germany’s during the 1960s, 70s and 80s. One team, in particular, was found to have tampered with over 100 urine samples at the 2014 games in order to conceal steroid use of some of the country’s top athletes.
While some Russian athletes may still be permitted to compete, this ruling is going to massively deplete the number of Russians participating in the games. Some sports, such as cross-country skiing or biathlon, may have no Russian competitors at all. These are sports historically dominated by Russians.
Russia’s Olympic Committee is expected to appeal the ruling.
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