Russia Banned From 2018 Winter Olympics, Some Athletes to Compete Under Neutral Flag

Russia's Olympic Committee has been banned from competing at the 2018 Winter Olympics just 64 days before the Games begin.
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The Russian Olympic Committee has been suspended from the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, after the International Olympic Committee examined the findings of a 16-month investigation into Russia's doping and cheating at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi.

Some Russian athletes will be allowed to compete under a neutral flag. 

"This was an unprecedented attack on the integrity of the Olympic Games and sport," IOC President Thomas Bach said in a statement. "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 WADA. As an athlete myself, I feel very sorry for all the clean athletes from all NOCs who are suffering from this manipulation. Working with the IOC Athletes’ Commission, we will now look for opportunities to make up for the moments they have missed on the finish line or on the podium."

The conclusion of an investigation led by Samuel Schmid, the former president of Switzerland, confirmed “the systemic manipulation of the anti-doping rules and system in Russia, through the Disappearing Positive Methodology and during the Olympic Winter Games Sochi 2014, as well as the various levels of administrative, legal and contractual responsibility, resulting from the failure to respect the respective obligations of the various entities involved.”

Individual Russian athletes will be invited to the Olympics under strict guidelines. They would compete under the Olympic flag and with a uniform bearing the neutral name. The Olympic anthem would be played at any ceremony.

In order to be eligible as a neutral athlete, an athlete must meet qualifying standards in their respective sport, not have been disqualified or declared ineligible for any doping violation, undergone all pre-Games targeted tests and undergone any further testing requirements specified. The IOC will ultimately determine the athletes to be invited from a list.

More than 100 Russian competitors were banned from the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro after an independent report by Richard McLaren determined that the country operated with state-sponsored doping that reportedly implicated 1,000 athletes across 30 sports between 2012 and 2015. Russia has repeatedly denied that any state-sponsored doping program existed.

Russian Minister of Sport Vitaly Mutko and his then-Deputy Minister Yuri Nagornykh have been banned from any future Olympic Games. Mutko is also the head of Russia's organizing committee for the 2018 World Cup. FIFA President Gianni infantino has said that a Russian ban for the Olympics would not have any impact on the country's hosting of the World Cup.

The Russian Olympic committee will also have to reimburse the IOC for the cost of the investigation as well contribute $15 million toward the creation of an independent testing authority.

Former Moscow laboratory director Grigory Rodchenkov was one of the early whistle blowers in the Russian doping investigation and says that he assisted in helping Russian athletes evade positive tests in Sochi. He left Russia in 2015 and is now under the protection of federal authorities. He issued a 50-page sworn affidavit to the IOC board on Monday. 

As of Monday, 25 Russians have been disqualified from Sochi and 11 medals have been stripped. Bach announced that the IOC will try to organize ceremonies to reallocate the medals from the 2014 Sochi Games during the 2018 Olympics.

The United State Olympic Committee issued a statement after the decision was announced. 

"The IOC took a strong and principled decision. There were no perfect options, but this decision will clearly make it less likely that this ever happens again. Now it is time to look ahead to PyeongChang."

The World Anti-Doping Agency recently announced that Russia remained non-compliant with its anti-doping code so the Russian track and field federation remains suspended from any international competition.

Russia has already been banned for the Winter Paralympic Games by the International Paralympic Committee.