IOC bans Russia from competing at 2018 Winter Olympics
The Olympic flag (L) and the Russian flag (R) during the Closing Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Olympic Games in the Fisht Olympic Stadium in Sochi, Russia, Feb. 23, 2014. EPA-EFE/HANNIBAL HANSCHKE
International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach (L) from Germany, and Samuel Schmid (R), President of the IOC Inquiry Commission and former President of Switzerland, attend a press conference after an Executive Board meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland, Dec. 5, 2017. EPA-EFE/JEAN-CHRISTOPHE BOTT
Team Russia with flag bearer Alexander Zubkov (C-R) during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Olympic Games at the Fisht Olympic Stadium in Sochi, Russia, Feb. 7, 2014. EPA-EFE FILE/BARBARA WALTON
International Sports Desk, Dec 5 (efe-epa).- The International Olympic Committee decided Tuesday to bar Russia from competing at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, although individual athletes who can prove they were not implicated in a massive state-sponsored doping program will be able to compete under a neutral flag.
The IOC said on its Web site that the organization's executive board decided, among other things, "To suspend the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) with immediate effect," and "To invite individual Russian athletes under strict conditions ... to the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018."
"These invited athletes will participate, be it in individual or team competitions, under the name 'Olympic Athlete from Russia (OAR)'. They will compete with a uniform bearing this name and under the Olympic Flag," the IOC continued.
The IOC Executive Board, meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland, took the decision after learning the conclusions of the Schmid Report, which it has commissioned and which confirmed the "systematic manipulation of the anti-doping system in Russia."
IOC chief Thomas Bach, of Germany, said that "This was an unprecedented attack on the integrity of the Olympic Games and sport."
"After following due process, (the IOC's executive board) has issued proportional sanctions for this systemic manipulation while protecting the clean athletes," he continued, adding "This should draw a line under this damaging episode and serve as a catalyst for a more effective anti-doping system led by (the World Anti-Doping Agency)."
Besides suspending the Russian Olympic Committee, the IOC decided to exclude Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko and his then-deputy minister, Yuri Nagornykh, from any future participation in the Olympic Games.
In addition, the director of the director of the Sochi 2014 Olympic Organizing Committee, Dmitry Chernyshenko, will be excluded from the 2022 Beijing Winter Games coordinating committee, and the president of the ROC, Alexander Zhukov, will have his membership on the IOC suspended.
Furthermore, "The ROC (must) reimburse the costs incurred by the IOC" in the doping investigation and "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," the IOC said.
The IOC statement also said, however, that it could partially or fully lift the suspension of the Russian committee "from the commencement of the Closing Ceremony of the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 provided these decisions are fully respected and implemented by the ROC and by the invited athletes and officials."
The measures do not prevent Russian athletes from participating in the Winter Games beginning on Feb. 9 in the South Korean city, although they will have to participate as individuals not representing Russia and under strict conditions so that they may be certified to be "clean" and not using any banned drugs.
Meanwhile, the head of the Russian Duma, or lower house of parliament, Igor Lebedev, called the decision a "humiliation" of his country, adding that the best way out of the situation would be for Moscow to refuse to participate in the Olympic Games altogether.