In an unprecedented move, the International Olympic Committee has banned the Russian Olympic team from participating in the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. While individual atheltes with rigorous histories of anti-doping testing will be allowed to petition to compete as neutral athletes, Russian government officials will be forbidden to attend the games, the country’s flag will not fly and its anthem will not be played, the New York Times reported.
If any Russian athletes win metals as individual competitors, the Russian anthem won’t be played during the medals ceremony – instead, the Olympic anthem will sound. The record books from the games will officially record that Russia won zero metals at the 2018 games.
The punishment was issued Tuesday following years of deliberations after a rogue doctor blew the whistle on the program in a wide-ranging expose published in the New York Times back in 2016. That story explained how Russian officials set up a clandestine laboratory to intercept official drug tests. Russian testers also developed a method to infiltrated the supposedly tamper-proof containers used by the Olympics anti-doping officials.
As the Times explained, the punishment was decided after the IOC finished its investigation. It’s a major blow to Russia’s national pride: The country has often used the Olympics as a display of global voice.
His spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, has said no boycott was under discussion before the announcement, however, and the news broke late in the evening in Moscow when an immediate official reaction was unlikely.
Thomas Bach, president of I.O.C., has said he was perturbed not only by Russia’s widespread cheating but by how it had been accomplished: by corrupting the Olympic laboratory that handled drug testing at the Games, and on orders from Russia’s own Olympic officials.
Russia was allowed to compete at the 2016 summer games in Rio de Janeiro, but its athletes were subjected to rigorous anti-doping testing.
The official statement on the decision from the IOC is available here.
As the NYT recalls, a team assembled by Russia’s sports ministry tampered with more than 100 urine samples to conceal evidence of top athletes’ steroid use during an elaborate overnight operation at the 2014 Sochi Games. More than two dozen Russian athletes have been disqualified from the Sochi standings as a result, and Olympic officials are still sorting through the tainted results and rescinding medals.