The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has banned Russia from competing in the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, in retaliation for a state-backed doping program the committee says Russia has run in recent years.
The IOC announced that Russia’s flag will not be flown at next year’s games and the country’s anthem will not be played during the opening ceremony. The decision also bars the country’s government officials from attending the events and states that any Russian athletes who get special permission to compete will wear a neutral uniform. Any medals won will not be counted toward Russia’s medal count.
A statement from the IOC says that Russia’s two top sporting officials, Minister of Sport Vitaly Mutko and his deputy, Yuri Nagornykh, are banned from participating in any future Olympic events.
Russian athletes who have a history of passing doping tests are still invited to attend under a neutral flag, according to the announcement, but any record of failure will be immediately disqualifying.
In the announcement, IOC President Thomas Bach called the Russian doping program an “unprecedented attack on the integrity of the Olympic Games and sport” and called for stronger regulation from the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).
“This was an unprecedented attack on the integrity of the Olympic Games and sport,” Bach said. “The IOC [Executive Board], 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.”
“As an athlete myself, I feel very sorry for all the clean athletes from all [National Olympic Committees] who are suffering from this manipulation,” he added. “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.”
Russia’s ban expires after the 2018 Winter Olympics. The 2020 Olympic Games, Russia’s next opportunity to compete officially as a nation, will be held in Tokyo, Japan.
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