ReutersLAUSANNE, Switzerland (Reuters) — Russia has been banned from the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics after the IOC found evidence of an “unprecedented systematic manipulation” of the anti-doping system that has led to a series of suspensions for the country’s athletes in recent months.
The International Olympic Committee did not impose a blanket ban on Russia ahead of the Rio 2016 Summer Games but said on Tuesday that the evidence unearthed by the Schmid Commission made the doping situation impossible to dispute.
It therefore suspended Russia, which finished top of the medals table at its own 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, from next year’s Games in South Korea, which run from Feb. 9-25.
However, in a bid to protect “innocent athletes,” the door has been left open for Russians to compete as an “Olympic Athlete of Russia,” as long as they satisfy strict conditions that show they have a doping-free background.
The IOC also decided to suspend Russian Olympic Committee President Alexander Zhukov as an IOC member, while Russian Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko, sports minister at the time of the Sochi Games, was also banned from any future participation at the Olympics.
Former Switzerland President Samuel Schmid told a news conference his report focusing on allegations of government involvement in Russian doping at the Sochi Games confirmed “the systematic manipulation of the anti-doping rules and system.”
The results were not based only on testimony by Russia’s former anti-doping chief-turned-whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov. There was also scientific evidence, witness statements documents and correspondence, he said.
“The facts are that in Russia there was systemic manipulation of doping and the anti-doping system ... that also took place at Sochi 2014,” added Schmid.
IOC President Thomas Bach said: “Today we gave the Russian delegation the opportunity to express themselves. In this meeting this afternoon the president of ROC has apologized.
“As a former athlete, I am feeling very sorry for all the clean athletes who are suffering from this manipulation ... but because we are allowing clean athletes to participate they can set about building a bridge for the future [rather] than erecting a new wall between Russia and the Olympic movement.”
Zhukov described the IOC decision as contradictory. “There are positive and negative sides,” he said. “The IOC has allowed all clean athletes in all sports.”
Other Russians were more forthright, with Alexei Kravtsov, president of the Russian Skating Union, saying: “The decision is offensive, insulting and completely unjustified.