By: Wrence Trinidad
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has suspended Russia from competing as a team at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea.
“The Russian Olympic committee is suspended with immediate effect,” said IOC President Thomas Bach at a news conference Monday afternoon.
“Clean [Russian] individuals will be able to participate under strict conditions at the Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang 2018. These athletes will participate, be it individual or team competitions, under the name ‘Olympic athletes from Russia,’ with the acronym OAR,” he said.
Bach also stated that Russian athletes will be wearing OAR uniforms while competing under the Olympic flag, and the Russian national anthem will be replaced with the Olympic anthem.
Additionally, the president of the Russian Olympic Committee has been suspended, along with several other members, due to “systematic manipulation of the anti-doping rules and system in Russia.”
A $15 million fine has also been assessed to the Russian committee.
The Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) has voiced their support with IOC in promoting a clean sport for atheletes.
“The IOC has done essential work on this issue today. The Canadian Olympic Committee will continue its efforts in collaborating with Canadian and world leaders for clean sport,” COC CEO Chris Overhalt said in a written statement.
The decision, which was finalized at a meeting held in Switzerland, comes hours after the IOC executive board received their final reports from two commissions they created investigating Russian doping.
IOC Disciplinary Commission Chair Samuel Schmid, who was in charge of the investigation, said he was appalled by the findings.
“Our conclusion is based on all the scientific proof, testimonies and correspondence,” he said.
“Let me just say that we have never seen such manipulation and cheating [before]. And this has caused unprecedented damage to Olympism and to sports.”
Russia became embroiled in a doping scandal after the country was found cheating at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games.
The pivotal evidence was provided by Grigory Rodchenkov, the former director for Russia’s anti-doping laboratory.
In late 2016, Rodchenkov said he provided more than a dozen Russian athletes with a three-drug cocktail made up of banned substances mixed with liquor, as part of a state-sponsored doping regime.
The performance-enhancing cocktail is said to help athletes recover faster and improve endurance. Alcohol was used to speed up absorption of the steroids and shorten the detection window for testing.
After the evidence was brought forward to the IOC, 25 Russian athletes were disqualified from competing in PyeongChang, with six of them being banned from the Olympics for life, and a total of 11, including four gold medals, were stripped.
Since then, the IOC has been pressured to sanction Russia from competing in PyeongChang.
Alexander Legkov, a Russian cross-country skier who had his gold medal stripped after the 2014 Winter Olympics says the move was purely political.
“I think this is a political gain, everyone is against Russia because it’s one of the strongest powers in the world, I’d like a replacement [medal] if possible,” he said.
“I did train a lot before the [Sochi] Olympics, and I had a lot of competition that I won [before] as well. So I was under monitoring, and I took the doping test in Italy, France and Germany, so it was completely transparent.”
During the 2016 Rio Olympics, Russia’s athletics and weightlifting athletes were banned from participating after failing drug tests commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency.
In last year’s Winter Olympics, Russia placed fourth in total medals earned after being reprimanded by the IOC.
Bach said the IOC is looking for a way to give clean athletes the recognition they deserve.
“I feel sorry for all the clean athletes who [were cheated] a medal, we will do our best to organize a ceremony for athletes to try and make up for the moments they have missed,” he said.