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Russia Banned from 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea

As a penalty for a systemic doping scheme, the Russian flag will not fly and the national anthem will not be played in Pyeongchang next February.

Sean Newell

IOC President Thomas Bach and some cheater. Photo by Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

The International Olympic Committee today announced that Russia has been banned from participating in the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. The unprecedented penalty comes after a nearly 17-month investigation led by the former president of Switzerland, Samuel Schmid, which found "systemic manipulation of the anti-doping rules and system in Russia" during the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014.

Previously, the New York TImes reported that Russians engaged in a stealth operation to tamper with urine tests at the Olympic laboratory in Sochi to clear over 100 athlete samples. The director of the lab, Grigory Rodchenkov, told the Times that he created a cocktail that included three PEDs and mixed it with alcohol before providing it to "dozens of Russian athletes." Then, he informed the Times, "Russian antidoping experts and members of the intelligence service surreptitiously replaced urine samples tainted by performance-enhancing drugs with clean urine collected months earlier, somehow breaking into the supposedly tamper-proof bottles that are the standard at international competitions."

The Schmid Commission, which "held hearings with all the main actors," confirmed those claims and recommended appropriate sanctions. After adopting the report and deliberating, the IOC banned Russia from the 2018 games, while still leaving room for clean Russian athletes to compete, albeit under the neutral Olympic flag.

In it's report, the IOC announced it's intention:

To suspend the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) with immediate effect.

To invite individual Russian athletes under strict conditions (see below) to the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018. These invited athletes will participate, be it in individual or team competitions, under the name “Olympic Athlete from Russia (OAR)”. They will compete with a uniform bearing this name and under the Olympic Flag. The Olympic Anthem will be played in any ceremony.

Not to accredit any official from the Russian Ministry of Sport for the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018.

Russian officials will not be welcome at the games, and the Russian Olympic Committee will be required to reimburse the IOC for the cost of the investigation, while also contributing $15 million to establish an Independent Testing Authority to help repair faith in anti-doping efforts.

Russian athletes who still wish to compete will be chosen at the "absolute discretion" of the newly formed ITA and will have to demonstrate to the ITA that they have not been deemed ineligible for an anti-doping violation, have undergone all testing required before these 2018 Olympics, and must undergo any further testing required by the ITA to "ensure a level playing field."

Although it had been previously rumored that Russia would boycott the Olympics if such a punishment was handed down—you can't fire us, we quit—the announcement was made late in the evening, and an immediate reaction was not expected.