As more and more evidence piles up to support a state-sponsored doping program within the nation of Russia, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has officially suspended the Russian Olympic Committee from the 2018 Winter Olympics while creating a strict process for allowing clean Russian athletes to compete under the Olympic banner.
The IOC announced the move today, about two months out of the start of the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics. The situation is reminiscent of the 2016 Summer Olympics, where rumors first started circulating that the IOC would hand down a blanket ban of Russian athletes. Ultimately, the IOC opted not to ban all Russian athletes, but set up a set of criteria for athletes from Russia to have Olympic eligibility.
The major difference this time around is that in 2016, the Russian Olympic Committee was still considered eligible and could enter athletes who met the IOC‘s guidelines. In 2018, the Russian Olympic Committee as a whole is banned, but individual Russian athletes can apply for eligibility through the IOC and compete not for Russia but under a banner called “Olympic Athletes from Russia.”
The athletes will have uniforms sporting the Olympic flag, and any event winners will hear the Olympic anthem, not the Russian anthem, during their awards ceremonies.
The Russian Olympic Committee’s blanket ban could be modified or lifted based on several key IOC stipulations, mostly involving the removal of Russian Officials from the Olympic Committee and from other international committees.
The process for individual athletes to compete at the Olympics is laid out in the full IOC release below, but mostly revolves around (1) not having any prior doping violations and (2) undergoing a sufficient amount of drug testing prior to the Olympic Games.
The U.S. Olympic Committee also released a statement from CEO Scott Blackmun supporting the decision:
“The IOC took a strong and principled decision. There were no perfect options, but this decision will clearly make it less likely that this ever happens again. Now it is time to look ahead to PyeongChang.”
The full IOC statement is below:
The conclusions of the Schmid Report, on both factual and legal aspects, confirmed “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, as well as the various levels of administrative, legal and contractual responsibility, resulting from the failure to respect the respective obligations of the various entities involved”.
As a consequence, the Schmid Commission recommended to the IOC EB:
- “to take the appropriate measures that should be strong enough to effectively sanction the existence of a systemic manipulation of the anti-doping rules and system in Russia, as well as the legal responsibility of the various entities involved (i.e., including uniform, flag and anthem);
- while protecting the rights of the individual Russian clean athletes; and
- to take into consideration the multiple costs incurred by the two IOC DCs, in particular those linked to the investigations, the various expertise and the re-analysis of the samples of the Olympic Games.”
After discussing and approving the Schmid Report, the IOC EB took the following decision:
- To suspend the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) with immediate effect.
- To invite individual Russian athletes under strict conditions (see below) 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 Olympic Anthem will be played in any ceremony.
- Not to accredit any official from the Russian Ministry of Sport for the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018.
- To exclude the then Minister of Sport, Mr Vitaly Mutko, and his then Deputy Minister, Mr. Yuri Nagornykh, from any participation in all future Olympic Games.
- To withdraw Mr Dmitry Chernyshenko, the former CEO of the Organising Committee Sochi 2014, from the Coordination Commission Beijing 2022.
- To suspend ROC President Alexander Zhukov as an IOC Member, given that his membership is linked to his position as ROC President.
- The IOC reserves the right to take measures against and sanction other individuals implicated in the system.
- The ROC to reimburse the costs incurred by the IOC on the investigations and to 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 may partially or fully lift the suspension of the ROC 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 IOC will issue operational guidelines for the implementation of these decisions.
How the athletes will be chosen:
To invite individual Russian athletes to the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 according to the following guidelines:
- The invitation list will be determined, at its absolute discretion, by a panel chaired by Valerie Fourneyron, Chair of the ITA. The panel will include members of the Pre-Games Testing Task Force: one appointed by WADA, one by the DFSU and one by the IOC, Dr Richard Budgett.
- This panel will be guided in its decisions by the following principles:
- It can only consider athletes who have qualified according to the qualification standards of their respective sport.
- Athletes must be considered clean to the satisfaction of this panel:
- Athletes must not have been disqualified or declared ineligible for any Anti-Doping Rule Violation.
- Athletes must have undergone all the pre-Games targeted tests recommended by the Pre-Games Testing Task Force.
- Athletes must have undergone any other testing requirements specified by the panel to ensure a level playing field.
The IOC, at its absolute discretion, will ultimately determine the athletes to be invited from the list.
- These invited athletes will participate, be it in individual or team competitions, in the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 under the name “Olympic Athlete from Russia (OAR)”. They will compete with a uniform bearing this name and under the Olympic Flag. The Olympic Anthem will be played in any ceremony.
- These invited athletes will enjoy the same technical and logistical support as any other Olympic athlete.
- The panel, at its absolute discretion, will determine an invitation list for support staff and officials.
- This panel will be guided in its decisions by the following principles:
- No member of the leadership of the Russian Olympic Team at the Olympic Winter Games Sochi 2014 can be included on the invitation list.
- No coach or medical doctor whose athlete has been found to have committed an Anti-Doping Rule Violation can be included on the invitation list. All coaches and medical doctors included on the invitation list must sign a declaration to this effect.
- Any other requirement considered necessary to protect the integrity of the Olympic Games.
- The IOC, at its absolute discretion, will ultimately determine the support staff and officials to be invited from the list.
IOC President Thomas Bach said: “This was an unprecedented attack on the integrity of the Olympic Games and sport. The IOC EB, 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.”
He continued: “As an athlete myself, I feel very sorry for all the clean athletes from all NOCs 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.”