IOC Bans Russia From 2018 Winter Olympics
RFE/RL December 05, 2017
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has banned Russia from the 2018 Winter Olympics over allegations of state-sponsored doping but said that some Russian athletes would be allowed to compete "under strict conditions."
The IOC said in a December 5 statement that some Russian athletes who clear several strict anti-doping hurdles would be allowed to compete in the February games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, under a neutral uniform but that the Russian Olympic Committee would be barred from participation.
The IOC's executive board came to the decision after examining the findings and recommendations of a commission led by former Swiss President Samuel Schmid that has investigated the accusations of state-sponsored doping in Russia.
A 2016 report commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) found widespread evidence of state-sponsored doping across many Olympic sports in Russia.
The WADA report also found evidence of a cover-up and said Russian security agents were involved in swapping positive urine samples for clean ones at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
The IOC said that Schmid's report confirmed "the systematic manipulation of the anti-doping rules and system in Russia."
IOC President Thomas Bach said that the punitive measures targeting Russia came in response to"an unprecedented attack on the integrity of the Olympic Games and sport."
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a Facebook post following the announcement that Russia would persevere.
"We can never be knocked down," Zakharova wrote. "Not by a world war, not by the collapse of the Soviet Union, not by sanctions. We take it and we survive."
Russian Olympic Committee President Aleksandr Zhukov said that "punishing the innocent is unjust and immoral."
"This completely contradicts the basic Olympic principles," he was quoted as telling the Russian news agency R-Sport in Lausanne.
Several countries have previously been barred from participating in the Olympics, but the December 5 announcement was the first such ban on a national Olympic team due to doping.
Seventeen national anti-doping organizations demanded in September that Russia be banned from the 2018 Olympics, citing "proven corruption of the Sochi 2014 Games and continuing failure in its obligations to clean sport."
Russian President Vladimir Putin and other Russian officials have all denied any state involvement in the string of doping cases that has led to the banning of dozens of Russian athletes over the past two years.
Schmid's report, released in conjunction with the December 5 announcement of the ban, said that his commission "has not found any documented, independent, and impartial evidence confirming the support or the knowledge of this system by the highest state authority" in Russia.
The IOC announced several other punitive measures against Russia on December 5, including a lifetime ban against former Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko, a current deputy prime minister, on participation in future Olympics.
In a last-minute appeal to the committee, Mutko had said that "we are relying on common sense, on the IOC Charter, on the assumption that no one abolished the presumption of innocence."
The IOC also suspended Zhukov as its member, saying his membership was linked to his role as Russia's top Olympic official.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said earlier this week that Russia was "against the infringement of our athletes' rights, the unjustifiable infringement of rights."
"But at the same time Russia remains committed to the ideals of Olympism," Peskov said on December 4 in a regularly-held conference call.
Peskov suggested that Putin had decided against a boycott, and said the decision was aimed at "preserving all possible channels of cooperation and dialogue with the IOC, as well as with other international sports organizations."
But following the IOC announcement on December 5, the Russian state television holding company VGTRK said that it would not broadcast the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, the Russian news agency Interfax reported.
Moscow Blames Whistle-Blower
Russian prosecutors have accused the former head of Moscow's drug-testing lab, Grigory Rodchenkov, of being largely responsible for the doping scandal.
Rodchenkov became a whistle-blower and fled to the United States, where he lives in hiding. The IOC said last week that Rodchenkov was "truthful" in revealing a Russian doping "conspiracy" to the world.
Schmid told reporters in Lausanne on December 5 that the results of his report "are not based only on Grigoory Rodchenkov's testimony."
"There is scientific evidence, witness statements documents and correspondence," he said.
Gracenote Sports, a company that forecasts likely medal winners, had predicted Russia would win 21 medals at Pyeongchang, including six golds, if it was allowed to compete.
With reporting by AP, TASS, dpa, Reuters, USA Today, AFP, Interfax, and the BBC
Copyright (c) 2017. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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