Russia Banned From 2018 Winter Olympics Due To Doping - uSports.org
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SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 23: Gold medalist Alexander Legkov of Russia celebrates in the medal ceremony for the Men's 50 km Mass Start Free during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony at Fisht Olympic Stadium on February 23, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

Russia Banned From 2018 Winter Olympics Due To Doping

Russia has long been accused of doping, and now it is finally paying the consequences for it.

Russian Olympic doping scandal news

The country’s Olympic team was barred on Tuesday from the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Russian government officials are prohibited from attending, and the nation’s flag and anthem will not be displayed at the games, which begin Feb. 9. Any Russian athletes who receive special dispensation to compete will do so “as individuals wearing a neutral uniform, and the official record books will forever show that Russia won zero medals,” as The New York Times reported.

The International Olympic Committee handed down the punishment to Russia for its systematic, state-backed doping program, which has turned out to be one of the largest drug-consumption programs in Olympics history. The doping operations run by East Germany in the 1960s, 70s and 80s are perhaps close to this level.

The IOC had been conducting investigations related to Russian doping for more than a year, and the country’s officials had threatened to boycott of the games should the committee deal such a harsh punishment. Now, that evidently won’t be necessary.

Russian President Vladimir V. Putin had reportedly predicted a boycott of the 2018 Games, particularly since his foreign policy in recent years has been based on the premise that he has rescued Russia from the embarrassment inflicted upon it by the West following the collapse of the Soviet Union. His spokesman has said no boycott was under discussion before the announcement.

Russian athletes with rigorous drug testing histories can reportedly petition for permission to compete in neutral uniforms.

IOC President Thomas Bach said he was disturbed not only by the doping revelations, but also by how Russia achieved this: by corrupting the Olympic laboratory that handled drug testing at the Games, and on orders from Russia’s own Olympic officials.

At the 2014 Sochi Games, a team assembled by Russia’s sports ministry tampered with more than 100 urine samples to occult evidence of major athletes’ steroid use throughout the course of the Olympics. More than 24 Russian athletes have since been disqualified from the Sochi standings, and in some cases, medals have been rescinded. Russia’s track and field team was barred from competing at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, Brazil.

The Russian Olympic Committee was also fined $15 million on Tuesday.

“Everyone is talking about how to punish Russia, but no one is talking about how to help Russia,” said Vitaly Smirnov, Russia’s former sports minister who was last year appointed by Putin to lead a national anti-doping commission to redeem the country’s standing in world sports. “Of course we want our athletes there, and we want the Russian flag and anthem,” he said.

Tuesday’s punishment was in line with what had been suggested by two key whistle-blowers whose accounts upended Russia’s standing in global sports over the last several years: Grigory Rodchenkov, the chemist who spent 10 years as Russia’s anti-doping lab chief and was key to carrying out the cheating schemes in Sochi; and Vitaly Stepanov, a former employee of Russia’s anti-doping agency who married a runner for Russia’s national team and was the first to speak publicly about the nation’s institutionalized cheating.”

Stepanov had suggested banning Russia’s Olympic Committee for two years, or until the country’s anti-doping operations are re-certified by regulators.

 Rodchenkov is living at an undisclosed location in the United States under protection of federal authorities.

Tuesday’s ruling could also greatly impact another major sports event next year, the FIFA World Cup in Russia (the groups for the soccer tournament, which begins in June, were released on Friday). The nation’s deputy prime minister, Vitaly Mutko, was Russia’s top sports official during the 2014 Sochi Games and was directly implicated by Rodchenkov. Mutko has now been barred for life from the Olympics.

 SOCHI, RUSSIA – FEBRUARY 23: Gold medalist Alexander Legkov of Russia celebrates in the medal ceremony for the Men’s 50 km Mass Start Free during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony at Fisht Olympic Stadium on February 23, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

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Written by Pablo Mena