Once again Russian doping is a key topic at the International Olympic Committee (IOC). And once again the IOC bans Russian athletes from competing. This time it is the 2018 Winter Games scheduled for February. The IOC’s actions follow a 17-month investigation of Russian manipulation of testing during the 2014 Sochi Games, during which The Schmid Commission found systemic manipulation of the anti-doping rules and system in Russia.
Further, the commission recommended the IOC Executive Board to effectively sanction the existence of a systemic manipulation of the anti-doping rules and system in Russia, as well as the legal responsibility of the various entities involved; language indicating Russia’s doping program likely continues. The ban follows numerous earlier instances where Russia was banned for operating a state-sponsored doping program for athletes; including both during the 2016 Rio Games and 2016 Paralympic Games, as well as the 2017 International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) London World Championships.
The IOC Executive Board moved to immediately suspend the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) and block all Russian Ministry of Sport officials from the 2018 games. Additional sanctions are likely to have long term effects on Russia’s participation in international sport. These include exclusion of the Minister and Deputy Minister of Sport from all future Olympic Games, removal of the Sochi 2014 CEO from the Beijing 2022 Commission and suspension of the ROC President’s membership in the IOC. Lastly, the ROC must reimburse the IOC for the costs of the investigation and pay $15m to be used to increase capacity and integrity of the global anti-doping program.
The only good news to come out of the IOC meeting was a path for clean Russian athletes to participate. Individual Russian athletes may be invited to participate in the 2018 Winter Games. A special panel will be convened to determine which athletes are considered clean and eligible to participate. Athletes who participate will compete under the title Olympic Athlete from Russia (OAR). They will also wear a non-national uniform and have the Olympic Anthem played at any ceremony. A move clearly designed to keep Russian out of the Games.