Moscow (AsiaNews / Agencies) – The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has banned Russia from the 2018 Winter Games scheduled in Pyeongchang, South Korea, starting next February 9th. Behind yesterday’s “unprecedented” decision in the history is the systematic state sponsored doping of athletes in previous events and, in particular, at the last Olympics in Sochi (Russia) in 2014 .
The leaders of the highest international sports organization have also arranged that “some” Russian athletes can take part in the Games “respecting strict rules”. These athletes will be able to compete as individuals, the national flag will not be exposed at the opening ceremony and the medal stand will always show zero medals for Russia.
The announcement of Russia’s ban from the Olympics is the result of a long investigation launched following the previous Games, in which the host country ranked first in the medal standings. The IOC experts have proven the “systematic” practice of state doping planned by Moscow to ensure the victory of their athletes.
The IOC has also ordered a lifetime ban for Russian Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko, held – according to charges – to be chiefly responsible for the scandal; at the time of the Sochi Games he was the minister of sport. The decision casts a shadow on his continuing to lead the 2018 World Cup organizing committee, scheduled for next summer in Russia.
In a note IOC president Thomas Bach, speaks of “an unprecedented attack on the integrity of the Olympic Games and sport in general”. To date the provision of disqualification for life involved 25 Russian athletes and even today the body responsible for doping controls accuses Russia of not complying with international directives. The announcement also concerns the Russian Paralympic Committee; the final decision on a possible reinstatement will be taken on December 22nd in London.
The President of the Russian Olympic Committee Alexander Zhukov, immediately accused the IOC of punishing clean athletes. A decision, he adds, that is both “unjust and immoral”, a “humiliation” as well as “a punch to the stomach ” that “contradicts” the “basic principles” of Olympic sport. “Everyone – he concluded – should respond in an individual manner for their own faults”.
In the past, some nations, like South Africa in the days of Apartheid, were banned from the Games but there has never been a similar decision for doping. The Russian athletes who will receive the clearance for Pyeongchang will compete under the name “Olympic Athletes of Russia”, with a uniform that will bear this name and in case of victory, during the medal ceremony , the Olympic anthem will be played instead of the Russian one.
If in Russia the condemnation from the political world has been unanimous, the US Olympic Committee is celebrating the decision, judging it legitimate and dutiful. The revelation of Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, director of the Russian anti-doping laboratory at the time of the 2014 Sochi Games, started the investigation which took over two years. He spoke about a systematic, widespread program implemented by the State to boost the performance of athletes; the perpetrators also reportedly exchanged tubes containing urine samples to bypass controls.