The International Olympic Committee has barred Russia from the Winter Olympics this February as punishment for its systematic doping but will allow some individual Russian athletes to take part under a neutral Olympic flag.
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The IOC’s executive committee announced in a statement that it was barring Russia’s national Olympic committee from the Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. The punishment, which will mean that no Russian athletes will compete under the country’s colors, came amid intense pressure to punish the country for its alleged state-sponsored cover-up of doping by its athletes. The penalty is unprecedented in Olympic history.
In a statement released after it met in Lausanne, Switzerland, the committee said it acted on the recommendations of an IOC commission headed by former Swiss President Samuel Schmid to investigate Russian doping. The statement said his report confirmed “the systemic manipulation of the anti-doping rules and system in Russia.”
At a press conference after the decision was announced, Schmid said his commission did not find any evidence that the Kremlin was aware of the doping cover-up, but the IOC banned Russia’s former sports minister and its current head of the national soccer association, Vitaly Mutko, for life from the Olympics, along with his former deputy Yuri Nagornykh.
The anti-doping agencies of 17 countries, including the United States, demanded the IOC impose a blanket ban, issuing a collective statement in September that it was time for the body to stop “paying lip service” to the anti-doping fight.
The IOC stopped short of that, instead saying that some Russian athletes will be permitted to compete in Pyeongchang under a specially created status, “Olympic athlete from Russia,” according to the IOC statement. Those athletes will have to be cleared an IOC panel that will confirm they have no doping violations on their records and that they have undergone sufficient testing. Athletes approved by the panel will compete in a uniform with “Olympic athlete from Russia” written on it and under an Olympic flag. The Olympic anthem will be played in place of Russia’s national anthem at medal ceremonies.
Scott Blackmun, the CEO of the United States Olympic Committee, called the decision “strong and principled.”
“There were no perfect options, but this decision will…