Russia banned from 2018 Winter Olympics

IOC: Russians can compete in Pyeongchang, but without flag

The Associated Press

LAUSANNE, Switzerland — Russian athletes will be allowed to stand on the medal podium at the Winter Olympics — just not with their anthem playing or their nation’s flag rising above them.

The International Olympic Committee barred Russia and its sports leaders from the upcoming games in South Korea on Tuesday after its lead investigator concluded members of the Russian government concocted a doping scheme at the 2014 Sochi Games that “caused unprecedented damage to Olympism and to sports.”

Not welcome in Pyeongchang next year will be any sign of the Russian Olympic Committee or any member of its sports ministry, which was responsible for what investigators concluded was a top-to-bottom scheme of “manipulation and cheating” to ensure Russians could dope at the Olympics on their home turf and not get caught.

The IOC punishment did leave room for many Russians to compete under the name “Olympic Athlete from Russia” or OAR. They would have to pass drug tests to prove they were clean and also did not benefit from the Sochi scheme.

If they win, the Olympic flag would be raised and the Olympic anthem played to honor their victories. That is, if Russian President Vladimir Putin allows them to go to the Feb. 9-25 games. He previously has said it would be humiliating for Russia to compete without its national symbols.

“An Olympic boycott has never achieved anything,” IOC president Thomas Bach said at a news conference. “Secondly, I don’t see any reason for a boycott by the Russian athletes because we allow the clean athletes there to participate.”

Alexander Zhukov, the Russian Olympic Committee president who also was suspended from his IOC membership, told TV reporters in Lausanne that one key was preserving the name “Russia” in the team name.

“They’ll be called Russian athletes and not some kind of neutrals … that’s very important,” Zhukov said.

The IOC also suspended the Russian Olympic Committee until at least the start of the closing ceremony in South Korea, banned Russian Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko from the Olympics for life and imposed a fine of $15 million on the Russian Olympic Committee to pay for its two investigations into the case and toward future anti-doping work.

The sanctions could be challenged at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

The executive board reached its decision Tuesday after a scheduled 4 1/2-hour debate when it heard from a Russian delegation that included world figure skating champion Evgenia Medvedeva. The delegation was led by Zhukov, who was later suspended.

By Monday, 25 Russians had been disqualified from the Sochi Games and banned from the Olympics for life, and 11 medals were stripped. One Russian was cleared.