PYEONGCHANG, SOUTH KOREA: Olympics chief Thomas Bach denied the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics had been “tainted” by the Russian doping scandal as officials voted to keep Russia’s suspension in place for the closing ceremony on Sunday.
Bach said Russia’s ban from Olympic participation will automatically be lifted if anti-doping officials do not find any more Russian drug cases at Pyeongchang, where two Russians tested positive.
An International Olympic Committee source said the suspension could be lifted as early as “a few days or a few weeks” if no further positive tests come out of the Games.
The Russian question has hung over Pyeongchang. Russia was banned for systemic doping, but 168 “clean” Russians were allowed to compete — only for a curler and a bobsledder to fail drugs tests.
But Bach said the IOC had sent a “clear message” on Russia, who competed as “Olympic Athletes from Russia” and will now be unable to fly the national flag at Sunday’s closing ceremony.
“I don’t think, quite frankly, that these Olympic Winter Games have been tainted by the Russian affair because we had no Russian team here. This was a clear message,” Bach said.
Bach added that he didn’t know how long it would take to clear the 166 remaining Russians of doping in Pyeongchang. But he said the ban would not be reimposed if positive tests come to light later.
“This I don’t know,” he said, when asked about how long the Russians had to go without any more positive tests.
“This depends on the DFSU (Doping-Free Sport Unit, of the Global Association of International Sports Federations) once they are providing this result.
“If the result is that there is no other case then at this moment the sanction is lifted.”
‘Not fair for the other guys’
The vote to keep Russia’s ban in place from the time being followed a recommendation from the IOC’s executive board, which met Saturday and early Sunday to thrash out Russia’s fate.
Bach said the positive tests from curler Alexander Krushelnitsky, and women’s bobsleigh pilot Nadezhda Sergeyeva, were the “key factor” in the decision not to immediately lift the ban.
But he added: “These are cases of negligence. There is no indication whatsoever of systemic or systematic doping here, or of any involvement of the OAR leadership or… the Russian Olympic Committee.”
Neither Krushelnitsky or Sergeyeva contested the findings of their doping tests, but both are free to challenge any eventual suspensions from their sports. Both are provisionally suspended.
Stanislav Pozdnyakov, head of the Russian delegation, also blamed “negligence rather than malicious intent” for the positive tests.
But Francesco Friedrich, a German bobsledder who won his second gold of the Games on Sunday, had little sympathy.
“What should I say? I think they have two more positive doping tests. It’s their own problem, they don’t have to do it,” he said, just after the IOC made its announcement.
“It’s not fair for all the other guys, we fight for the medals.”
Australia’s chef de mission Ian Chesterman called the Russian doping conspiracy, which culminated at Sochi 2014, an “absolute disgrace”.
“I think it’s appropriate that the world remembers for a long time what they did to the Olympic movement,” he said.
“I think it’s appropriate that even if we forgive them, we should not forget the actions that they did during those Games.”