IOC ban Russia from 2018 Winter Olympics over doping

Clean individual athletes can compete under the Olympic flag in Pyeongchang in February

The Russian Olympic Committee has been banned from sending a team to the 2018 Winter Olympics. Photograph: Koki Nagahama/Getty

The Russian Olympic Committee has been banned from sending a team to the 2018 Winter Olympics. Photograph: Koki Nagahama/Getty

 

Russia has been banned from next year’s Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang and ordered to pay $15m by the International Olympic Committee as a punishment for operating a massive state-sponsored doping programme during London 2012 and the Winter Games staged by Russia in Sochi two years’ later.

It is the first time the IOC has ever imposed a blanket ban on a country for doping. However some Russian athletes will be allowed to compete in South Korea under a neutral flag, providing they can prove they are not implicated in the doping scandal and have also undergone regular anti-doping tests.

The IOC also confirmed that these “neutral athletes” will not get to wear any Russian uniform – or hear their country’s national anthem – if they win a gold medal.

Vitaly Mutko, the then minister of sport and now a Russian deputy prime minister, has been banned from any participation in all future Olympic Games. Mutko is at present the head of the organising committee for the 2018 World Cup and on Friday rejected suggestions that there had been systematic doping.

IOC president Thomas Bach announced the decision to ban Russia on Tuesday evening. Photograph: Chung Sung-Jun/Getty
IOC president Thomas Bach announced the decision to ban Russia on Tuesday evening. Photograph: Chung Sung-Jun/Getty

In a press release the IOC added that the Russian Olympic Committee must “reimburse the costs incurred by the IOC on the investigations and to contribute to the establishment of the Independent Testing Authority (ITA) for the total sum of USD 15 million, to build the capacity and integrity of the global anti-doping system”.

There had been suggestions beforehand that such a punishment might lead to a wholesale Russian boycott of the Winter Olympics. However no announcement has yet been made by the country’s president, Vladimir Putin, or the Russian Olympic Committee.

The IOC’s decision was announced on Tuesday evening by its president, Thomas Bach, after the 14-person executive committee spent the afternoon poring over the final report of the Schmid commission, which has been examining for the past 15 months whether there was an “institutional conspiracy” by Russian officials within the ministry of sport to corrupt the London 2012 Summer Olympics and the 2014 Sochi Winter Games.

The IOC also heard from a large Russian delegation, led by the former KGB agent Vitaly Smirnov – a long-time IOC member and a major sports administrator dating back to the Soviet era – as well as the brilliant 18-year-old skater Evgenia Medvedeva, the double-world champion who has not been beaten for two years. However their pleas to keep Russia in the Winter Olympics went unheeded as the IOC decided that there was sufficient evidence to ban Russia.

Relief

The news will be greeted with relief in many quarters, especially after the IOC flinched from banning Russia from last year’s Rio Olympics despite a report from the respected Canadian law professor Richard McLaren in July 2016 which found that the country’s government, security services and sporting authorities colluded to hide widespread doping across “a vast majority” of winter and summer sports.

Some had feared a repeat performance from the IOC on Tuesday, despite a second report by McLaren in December 2016 which confirmed that more than 1,000 Russian athletes had been involved in, or benefited from, state-sponsored doping.

However in the past month there has been a sea-change in the tone and language of the IOC and the World Anti-Doping Agency. It started when Wada revealed that it had received fresh evidence from a whistleblower that had “reinforced” McLaren’s findings. Separately, the Oswald commission, set up by the IOC to examine Russian doping in Sochi in 2014, began to ban Russian competitors from those Games retrospectively. So far the figure stands at 25 athletes, with 11 medals stripped.

Meanwhile the credibility of the Russian whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov, who ran the Moscow anti-doping laboratory before fleeing last year and revealing what he knew to McLaren, was recently enhanced by the Oswald commission, who confirmed that he was a “truthful witness”.

The Pyeongchang Games will begin in 66 days, on February 9th, and run until February 25th.

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