On Tuesday, the Russian Olympic Committee was suspended from participating in the Olympic Winter Games at PyeongChang in February 2018. The action was in response to “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″. These penalties for doping are without precedent in Olympics history. Plenty of athletes have been kicked out or lost their medals for doping. This is the first time an entire county was kicked out.
This all stems back to the corrupt doping testing facilities at Sochi. Thomas Bach, president of I.O.C., noted that Russia’s cheating was widespread. Even worse, it corrupted the Olympic laboratory that handled drug testing at the Sochi Games on orders from Russia’s Olympic officials. Russia’s sports ministry formed a team that tampered with more than 100 samples to conceal evidence of athletes’ steroid use throughout the course of the Sochi Games.
This is a terrible outcome for Russian athletes and will likely have a huge negative impact on the PyeongChang Games. The Russian athletes have excelled in many of the winter competitions. Clearly, some of that was from doping. But not all. (Do you believe in miracles?)
The IOC opened the door for some Russian athletes to compete under a neutral flag as Olympic Athletes from Russia. The IOC has organized a group to extend invitation to a select group of athletes, support staff and officials to participate in this manner. As you might expect, the athletes must not have had a prior doping violation and must go through a battery of tests before the Games.
It’s not clear how big this pool of invitees will be. Yevgenia Medvedeva, a favorite to medal in figure skating favorite, said that she “can not accept” competing in PyeongChang as a neutral athlete. She pointed out that she was 14 during the Sochi Games and not a member of the national team.
This is obviously a huge blow to the Russian sports federation, but the IOC indicated that the Russian flag may be allowed to fly at the closing ceremonies, presumably as a symbolic indication that they can move past this and compete clean in future events.