Adding to the list of world wide events Americans missed while we were otherwise engaged with the 2016 presidential election….
Nothing like being on home turf and having home field advantage.
At the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, the home team, the Russians, collected a total of 33 medals, the most of any contingent at that games. Following an investigation by the International Olympic Committee that discovered some of Putin’s people had stashed urine MONTHS before the games, and swamped out the new samples for the old at the games themselves to hide a massive doping scheme, 11 medals have been stripped, 25 athletes banned from the Olympics for life, and the Russian contingent as a whole has been disinvited to the 2018 games in PyeongChang.
Russian athletes deemed “clean” by a panel will be invited to compete under the name “Olympic Athlete from Russia (OAR).” No Russian flag, anthem or uniforms.
The IOC said the athletes will be invited via “strict conditions” detailed here:
Athletes must not have been had a doping violation.
Athletes must have undergone pre-Games targeted drug tests recommended by a testing task force.
Athletes must have undergone any other testing requirements specified to ensure a level playing field.
“This was an unprecedented attack on the integrity of the Olympic Games and sport,” IOC president Thomas Bach said in a press release, adding that he does not anticipate a boycott by Russian athletes. “The IOC [executive board], after following due process, has issued proportional sanctions for this systemic manipulation while protecting the clean athletes. This should draw a line under this damaging episode and serve as a catalyst for a more effective anti-doping system led by WADA.”
Those of us who remember the East German teams beginning with the 1976 summer games in Montreal, as well as the rise of the Chinese swimming program in the 1990s will beg to differ that the effort was unprecidented, but at least one country caught cheating in order to glory in the glamour of the Olympics is getting its just due.
What is also nice about this particular decision is that while the country’s contingent is banned, individual athletes who were not part of the scheme will be allowed to compete as full country bans and boycotts are really not fair to the honest athletes.
The decision clears a path for Russian winter sports stars like figure skater Yevgenia Medvedeva and short track speed skater Viktor Ahn to PyeongChang.
“Invited athletes will participate, be it in individual or team competitions, under the name ‘Olympic Athlete from Russia (OAR),’” the IOC release read.
Russian hockey has yet to weigh in, but as the list of banned athletes includes mostly biatholon, bobsled, skeleton and cross country skiing team members, this may well have been an effort at the squad level.
Whatever the real truth is behind the scheme, it sounds like the International Olympic Committee is no longer willing to look the other way when it comes to systemic cheating by contingents. We the spectators say it’s about time.