Russia banned from 2018 Winter Olympics after 'unprecedented' doping

There will be no Russian anthems, flags or uniforms at February's Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang after the country was banned for state-sponsored doping.

Only Russians who can prove they have not cheated - verified by credible anti-doping agencies - will be invited to South Korea in nine weeks' time.

They will compete as 'Olympic Athletes from Russia (OAR)', in uniforms which bear that acronym, under the Olympic flag. The Olympic anthem will be played in any ceremony.

The sanction was recommended by an International Olympic Committee (IOC) disciplinary commission led by ex-Swiss president Samuel Schmid.

He has spent 17 months investigating claims Russia doped more than 1,000 athletes, across 30 sports, between 2011 and 2015.

That conspiracy, which has also been corroborated by two World Anti-Doping Agency-funded investigations, reached spy-novel proportions at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, where Russia 'won' a record 33 medals, 11 of which have since been stripped.

Schmid's report, delivered to the executive board on Monday, was enough to persuade IOC president Thomas Bach to take what he had previously considered to be a "nuclear option".

Bach said: "This was an unprecedented attack on the integrity of the Olympic Games and sport. This should draw a line under this damaging episode and serve as a catalyst for a more effective anti-doping system."

As well as the immediate suspension of the Russian Olympic Committee, Bach announced a raft of sanctions against officials implicated in the scandal, including Russia's deputy prime minister Vitaly Mutko who will be banned from the Olympics for life.

It has also fined the Russians US$15m to reimburse the IOC's costs and help fund its new independent testing authority.

The IOC measures will have 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 one olive branch offered is that the IOC "may partially or fully lift the suspension" in time for Russia to participate in Pyeongchang's closing ceremony.

At a press conference in Lausanne, Schmid said his findings were based on more than just the testimony of whistle-blower Dr Grigory Rodchenkov, the former director of the Moscow anti-doping laboratory who fled Russia in 2015 and is now in the witness protection scheme in the United States.

Rodchenkov provided the commission with a damning 52-page affidavit, which Press Association Sport has seen, but Schmid said his team had checked every claim via testimony from other witnesses, forensic evidence, electronic records and further sources.

Schmid said Russia's "systemic manipulation" of the anti-doping rules "has never been seen before" and explained the legal responsibility for this lies with the sports ministry, as the ultimate power in Russian sport, and the ROC due to its obligations to the Olympic movement.

Bach said he hoped the sporting superpower would not react by boycotting but state news agency TASS has already reported that Russian television will not broadcast a Winter Games without a recognisably Russian team.

World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) president Sir Craig Reedie commended the IOC's "informed decision" to sanction Russia and said the agency would be "eager to collaborate" in examining which Russians might be eligible to compete in South Korea.

"It must be proven that these athletes have not been implicated in the institutionalised scheme," he added.

The IOC decision was also widely welcomed by figures ranging from British sports minister Tracey Crouch to US Anti-Doping Agency boss Travis Tygart, while Rodchenkov's lawyer Jim Walden said the IOC and WADA have now "fully confirmed the accuracy" of his client's testimony.


 

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