THE International Olympic Committee (IOC) suspended Russian athletes from representing their country in the 2018 Winter Olympics in Korea and would be allowed to compete only under the IOC flag, according to a statement.
The announcement came after the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) released a report that showed state-sponsored doping in Russia during the 2014 Winter Olympics, which it hosted.
Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, former Russian anti-doping laboratory director, told The New York Times in 2016 that some of the methods used to avoid detection were swapping of urine samples during competition and the creation of performance-enhancing substances to athletes.
This was confirmed by the IOC commission, led by Swiss lawyer Denis Oswald.
Since 2016, the IOC has conducted retests of drug samples from the athletes, especially those from Russia, who participated from 2008 to 2014. Between those years, 86 athletes were either stripped of their medals or did not start in Olympic competition.
Among those sanctioned from the Sochi Olympic Winter Games in 2014 were gold medalists Alexander Legkov (cross-country skiing), Alexander Tretiakov (skeleton), and Russian boblsled federation president Alexander Zubkov (bobsled), who were stripped of their results, after their urine samples “disappeared”. They are just three of the 25 athletes who have been banned from Olympic competition for life.
The Schmid report, the result of a 17-month investigation led by former Swiss president Samuel Schmid, has further confirmed the “systematic manipulation” of the anti-doping rules.
Russian athletes who are clean may participate in the 2018 Winter Olympic Games, but under the flag and anthem of the IOC as “Olympic Athletes from Russia”. The national anthem and flag of Russia cannot be used throughout the competition.
Apart from the athletes, Russian Minister of Sport Vitaly Mutko and his former Deputy, Yuri Nagornykh, have been banned from participation in subsequent Olympic Games from 2018 onwards.
In addition, former Sochi 2014 organizing chief and Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) president Dmitry Chernyshenko has been removed from the Coordination Commission for the 2022 Winter Olympics, that will be held in Beijing, China. Russian Olympic Committee President Alexander Zhukov has been suspended from IOC membership, in the wake of the scandal.
The Russian Olympic Committee is also urged to reimburse $15 million (or close to P760 million) on the investigations, as part of its contribution for an Independent Testing Authority, which, the IOC said would “build the capacity and integrity of the global anti-doping system”.
The IOC’s move garnered mixed reactions in Russia.
Frants Klintsevich, deputy chairman of the Russian parliament defense committee, said that his country’s athletes would not take part, if they could not compete under the national flag. Igor Morozov, another Russian politician, said that the IOC has declared a hybrid war on Russia.
Alexander Zubkov, the Russian bobsled federation president who was stripped of his gold medals from 2014, said that he was shocked by the decision of the IOC.
Russian broadcaster VGTRK said that it woulf not broadcast the Olympic Winter Games, as long as the country was not participating.
But ROC President Zhukov welcomed the decision to allow the “doping-free” athletes to take part in next year’s Winter Olympics. He has also apologized to the IOC for the doping violations.
“If, as proposed, the temporary restrictions are lifted on the last day, then on the last day Russian athletes will compete under their flag with all the athletes from the rest of the world,” Zhukov said.
Russian speedskating chief Alexei Kravtsov said it would be at the discretion of its athletes, as to whether or not they should participate.
One athlete, former National Hockey League (NHL) player Ilya Kovalchuk, said clean Russian athletes competing in the 2018 Winter Olympics would unite his country.
Grigory Rodchenkov’s lawyer, Jim Walden, welcomed the IOC decision, saying that it “sends a powerful message” that the Olympic committee will not tolerate state-sponsored cheating by any country.
“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.”
Bach later added that this should “draw a line” under the doping scandal and “serve as a catalyst” for more effective anti-doping measures by the WADA, while also feeling sorry for all the clean athletes from all National Olympic Committees (NOC’s), who are suffering from the scandal.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to make a statement on Wednesday.
Russia was allowed to participate in the 2016 Winter Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, but without a track and field and weighlifting team. However, they were banned from participating from the Paralympics a month later. Russia continues to be banned in the 2018 Winter Paralympics.
The 2018 Winter Olympics will be held in PyeongChang, South Korea from February 9-25, 2018. Russia is expected to host the FIFA World Cup after the Olympics. ARIC JOHN SY CUA