Russian athletes won 22 Olympic medals at the 2014 Winter Games, but after an unprecedented ruling by the International Olympic Committee, they will not take home any at the upcoming 2018 Olympic Games.
The IOC ruled on Tuesday that the Russian Federation will be barred from the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. Russia hosted the last Winter Games in Sochi in 2014, an event where they finished fourth in the medal race. But a massive doping scandal swallowed the Russians and many speculated that a harsh punishment could keep them out of the games.
On Tuesday, that punishment came down. Russia will not be allowed to participate, fly its flag, play its anthem or send athletes to the next Winter Games. The ruling is devastating for athletes of the nation, and some of the sports like hockey, which already won’t see NHL players on its international rosters.
There appears to be an avenue for Russian athletes to compete in the games under the Olympic banner if they petition and have a rigorous, clean drug testing history, but the New York Times said some sports Russians had previous dominated like biathlon and cross-country skiing could be wiped out altogether.
The punishment stems from a massive, state-run doping ring the Russian government carried out.
In an elaborate overnight operation at the 2014 Sochi Games, a team assembled by Russia’s sports ministry tampered with more than 100 urine samples to conceal evidence of top athletes’ steroid use throughout the course of competition. More than two dozen Russian athletes have been disqualified from the Sochi standings as a result, and Olympic officials are still sorting through the tainted results and rescinding medals.
Though some were skeptical that the IOC would issue such a harsh punishment, at appears that the decision was pretty easy for the committee to make.
The United States Olympic Committee also commented on the issue on Tuesday.
Those that retroactively won medals will reportedly get them in a special medal ceremony at the Pyeongchang Games early next year, though legal battles about the lost medals are expected to continue. Who gets invited to compete from the Russian team is still unknown, too. For example, there was some talk that the Russian hockey team could get invited under a neutral banner.
In other words, this will all only get weirder.