Russia banned from Olympics; athletes can compete as neutrals
Russia’s Olympic Committee was banned from the PyeongChang Olympics due to the nation’s doping scandal, but individual Russian athletes will be invited to compete at the Winter Games as neutrals under the Olympic Flag.
Russian athletes deemed “clean” by a panel will be invited to compete under the name “Olympic Athlete from Russia (OAR).”
No Russian flag, anthem or uniforms (except for, possibly, the Closing Ceremony), though the word “Russia” is expected to be on the uniforms.
If an OAR athlete or team wins gold, the Olympic Anthem will play just as it did for the Unified Team at the 1992 Albertville Games.
The IOC said athletes will be invited via “strict conditions” detailed here:
- Athletes must not have had a doping violation.
- Athletes must have undergone pre-Games targeted drug tests recommended by a testing task force.
- Athletes must have undergone any other testing requirements specified to ensure a level playing field.
“This was an unprecedented attack on the integrity of the Olympic Games and sport,” IOC president Thomas Bach said in a press release, adding that he does not anticipate a boycott by Russian athletes. “The IOC [executive board], after following due process, has issued proportional sanctions for this systemic manipulation while protecting the clean athletes. This should draw a line under this damaging episode and serve as a catalyst for a more effective anti-doping system led by [the World Anti-Doping Agency].”
The decision clears a path to PyeongChang for Russian stars like figure skater Yevgenia Medvedeva and short track speed skater Viktor Ahn.
Medvedeva spoke at the IOC meeting in Switzerland on Tuesday. Read what she said here.
“Invited athletes will participate, be it in individual or team competitions, under the name ‘Olympic Athlete from Russia (OAR),’” the IOC release read.
Bach repeated that statement when asked how Tuesday’s decision affects Russian hockey and curling teams and relays.
The International Ice Hockey Federation was not ready to comment on the situation immediately after the announcement, according to hockey media.
Russian president Vladimir Putin is expected to comment on the decision Wednesday, according to Russian media.
The next steps for Russian athletes and officials are expected to be discussed at a meeting next Tuesday, according to Russian news agency TASS.
Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko was banned from the Olympics for life. The Russia Olympic Committee was fined $15 million.
Russia Olympic Committee president Alexander Zhukov, whose IOC membership was suspended, apologized before Tuesday’s announcement, Bach said. Bach declined to detail for what Zhukov apologized, but Zhukov’s speech was later published.
“As the exclusive U.S. media rights holder through 2032, we believe in clean competition and strong actions to ensure it,” NBC Sports said in a statement. “Therefore, we fully support today’s IOC decision, which levels significant sanctions against the guilty, but also provides a path for clean athletes to compete in PyeongChang.”
Russia’s doping scandal emanates from the Sochi Olympics. It was first reported in May 2016 that Russian Olympians on performance-enhancing substances were protected by a urine-swapping scheme. Implicated Russian athletes have denied being part of a doping plan.
Late-night swaps of dirty samples for clean urine stored months earlier went via a “mouse hole” into a secured room at the Sochi testing laboratory.
Secret service agents had found a way to break into tamper-proof sample bottles and return them with clean urine, claimed whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov, the former head of a Moscow drug-testing lab.
After investigations, the International Olympic Committee last month began stripping Russia of Sochi Olympic medals (11 of its Sochi-leading 33 medals so far) and banning athletes from the Olympics for life (25 so far). A full list is here.
The last nation to be banned from a Winter Olympics was South Africa, which was barred from 1964 through 1992 due to its apartheid policies.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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