Russia’s Olympic team will not be allowed to compete in the 2018 Winter Games following the discovery that the country executed an elaborate program allowing athletes to use performance-enhancing drugs, including during the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) made the decision to suspend the Russian Olympic Committee Tuesday.
An IOC report confirmed “the systemic manipulation of the anti-doping rules and system in Russia,” the organization said in a statement. The decision follows a 17-month investigation led by former president of Switzerland Samuel Schmid.
Official record books for the Olympics ― which will take place in Pyeongchang, South Korea, next year ― will permanently show that Russia did not win any medals. However, individual Russian athletes will be able to compete wearing a neutral uniform, The New York Times reports.
Russian athletes who qualify will have to meet “strict conditions,” the IOC said in a release, that include drug testing that could go beyond normal Olympic standards. But the Russian flag will not fly, and the Russian anthem won’t play at the games.
Two top Russian officials, including Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko, have been banned from Olympic involvement for life, while Russian Olympic Committee President Alexander Zhukov’s IOC membership has been suspended.
The lawyer of Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, the former head of Russia’s anti-doping laboratory who peeled back the layers of Russia’s state-run doping program in a 2016 New York Times report, said in a statement Tuesday that the IOC’s decision sent a “powerful message.” Rodchenkov’s story is further explored in the Netflix documentary “Icarus” released earlier this year.
“As the world has seen, Dr. Rodchenkov provided credible and irrefutable evidence of the Russian state-sponsored doping system, which was ultimately supervised and financed by then-Minister of Sports Vitaly Mutko and other high-level government officials,” lawyer Jim Walden said in a statement. “The decision to bar Russia’s official participation in the Winter Olympics makes abundantly clear to Russia, and all countries, that there are serious consequences for flouting the rules of the international community.”
A livestream taken by Russia Today showed Russia’s Olympic skiing team hearing the news firsthand. Video showed the athletes looking dejected.
In a phone conference with reporters, Walden stressed that his client “doesn’t wish ill will on Russia” or its “clean Russian athletes.”
“What he wishes is that the world would come together and stop paying lip service to the need for anti-doping reform,” Walden said.
The lawyer said thousands of Russian athletes have likely been involved in the doping scandal at Olympic and lower levels.
Mutko, the Russian deputy prime minister who was banned from the Olympics for life, is currently overseeing Russia’s hosting of the 2018 FIFA World Cup. FIFA president Gianni Infantino said this week, however, that the Olympic doping scandal would have “no impact” on next summer’s tournament.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has previously referred to Rodchenkov of being “a man with a scandalous reputation.”
Rodchenkov fled Russia in 2016 after Moscow issued an arrest warrant for the doctor. He now lives in the U.S., but said he is worried about his family still living in Russia.
“He’s very concerned and worried about his family,” Walden said. “Russia’s sunk to some amazing depths in this case rather than face the truth, and he just hopes the Russian government will do the right thing with his family, and leave them alone.”