Russia banned from sending team to Winter Games

Russia has been banned from sending a team to February’s Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.

IOC president Thomas Bach.

The International Olympic Committee announced the suspension of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) yesterday, meaning only invited Russian athletes will be allowed to compete and they will be considered neutral competitors.

The decision was reached after the IOC’s 14-strong executive board received a recommendation from a disciplinary commission set up to investigate claims Russia conducted a state-sponsored doping programme that culminated at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi.

As well as the immediate suspension of the ROC, the IOC announced a raft of sanctions against senior officials implicated in the scandal, including Russia’s deputy prime minister Vitaly Mutko.

It has also fined the ROC $15m (€17m) to reimburse costs of various investigations into Russia’s cheating and help set up the IOC’s new independent testing authority.

IOC president Thomas Bach said: “This was an unprecedented attack on the integrity of the Olympic Games and sport.

The IOC [executive board], after following due process, has issued proportional sanctions for this systemic manipulation while protecting the clean athletes.

“This should draw a line under this damaging episode and serve as a catalyst for a more effective anti-doping system led by WADA.”

Bach, a former Olympic fencer, added: “As an athlete myself, I feel very sorry for all the clean athletes from all NOCs (national Olympic committees) who are suffering from this manipulation.

“Working with the IOC athletes’ commission, we will now look for opportunities to make up for the moments they have missed on the finish line or on the podium.”

No official from Russia’s ministry of sport will be accredited for Pyeongchang, said the IOC, and former sports minister Mutko and his ex-deputy Yuri Nagornykh will be banned from the Olympic Games for life.

The neutral-athlete sanction is based on the approach taken by athletics’ world governing body the IAAF at the Rio Games in 2016 and at this summer’s World Championships in London.

Any athlete who can prove that he or she has not doped — via a clean record verified by credible anti-doping agencies — will be able to compete in Pyeongchang as an ‘Olympic Athlete from Russia (OAR)’, in uniforms which bear that acronym, under the Olympic flag. The Olympic anthem will be played in any ceremony.

The IOC measures will have huge repercussions for football’s world governing body Fifa and next year’s World Cup in Russia, as Mutko is the president of the Russian Football Union and chairman of the Russia 2018 organising committee.

The former chief executive of the Sochi 2014 organising committee Dmitry Chernyshenko loses his position on the IOC co-ordination commission for Beijing 2022 and ROC president Alexander Zhukov is suspended as an IOC member.

Other individual sanctions may follow.

The one olive branch offered to the ROC is that the IOC “may partially or fully lift the suspension” in time for Russia to participate in Pyeongchang’s closing ceremony, “provided these decisions are fully respected and implemented”.


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