Russia Suspended

PC: Sergei Karpukhin Reuters

Following a 17-month investigation into the Sochi Olympic Games, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has suspended the Russian National Olympic Committee from, and limited Russian athlete participation in, the 2018 Games.

The Schmid Report, which was commissioned by the IOC, found both factual and legal proof that “a systemic manipulation of the anti-doping rules and system in Russia using the Disappearing Positive Methodology” to conceal doping during the Sochi Winter Games. The report claims that there were a number of administrative, legal and contractual responsibility oversights by the entities involved.

According to the McClaren Report, an independent WADA investigation into the Sochi Allegations, the method allowed the lab to open and reseal the tamper-proof bottles of the submitted samples. The lab swapped positive samples for clean ones and submitted them in the original tamper-proof containers. They then added salt tablets to bring the samples up to the correct weight.

The Schmid Commission concluded with the recommendation that, while protecting the rights of the individual Russian clean athletes, the IOC, “Take appropriate measures that are strong enough to effectively sanction the existence of a systemic manipulation of the anti-doping rules and that Russia’s Olympic Committee be held legally responsible.”

Taking their analysis into consideration the IOC’s Executive Board has suspended the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) effective immediately.

Individual Russian athletes who meet a certain level of criteria will be allowed, under strict conditions, to participate in the Winter Games in 2018. Those who participate will do so under the Olympic flag as “Olympic Athletes for Russia”. The Russian flag, and all the coaches, committee members and athletes associated with the anti-doping violations, will be banned from the Games.

Athletes will be chosen on an invitation-only basis determined by a panel chaired by Valarie Fourneyron, Chair of the Independent Testing Authority. The panel’s selection will be guided by the following principles:

  • Only athletes who have qualified according to the qualification standards of their respective sports will be considered

  • Athletes must be considered clean to the satisfaction of the panel

  • There must be no disqualified or declared ineligible mark on the athlete’s record for Anti-Doping Rules Violations

  • Pre-Games targeted tests, recommended by the Pre-Games Testing Task Force, must be successfully passed by the Athlete

  • Athletes must undergo any additional testing required by the task force to ensure a level playing field to their satisfaction

  • The final decision on invited athletes falls absolutely within the discretion of the IOC

The selected athletes will participate in individual and team competitions in the 2018 Games under the name “Olympic Athlete from Russia (OAR)”. They will wear a uniform with this name and participate under the Olympic Flag. The Olympic Anthem will be played for all ceremonies involving the athletes.

The athletes will otherwise participate equal to, and enjoy the same benefits of, every other athlete in the Olympic village.

As to their support staff, it remains the absolute discretion of the panel to invite that staff and those officials. The IOC has strictly forbidden the extension of an invitation to members of the leadership of the Russian Olympic Team at the Winter Games Sochi. Additionally, any coach or medical personnel associated with an athlete that has been found to have committed an Anti-Doping Rule violation is stricken from eligibility.

There will be no accreditations available to the Russian Ministry of Sport. The presiding Minister, Mr. Vitaly Mutko, and his Deputy, Mr. Yuri Nagornykh, have been personally banned from all future Olympic Games. Furthermore, Mr. Dmitry Chernyshenko, the former CEO of the Organizing Committee Sochi 2014, is banned from the Coordination Commission for Beijing 2022. The Russian Olympic Committee President Alexander Zhukov has been suspended as an IOC member because his membership is linked to his position. The Committee further reserved the right to take additional action and implement more sanctions, on individuals involved in the matter.

Russia’s Olympic Committee must now pay the IOC $15M for reimbursement of the cost of the investigation and as a contribution to the establishment of an Independent Testing Authority (ITA).

This fee, along with the bans and sanctions, may have a direct effect on the baseball and softball athletes currently training for Tokyo 2020. At this moment, Russia is one of a handful of European countries using part of their Olympic funding to pay their baseball and softball athletes a salary to train for the Games.

As this news breaks, the details surrounding the Olympic qualifying rounds for Europe are in the decision phase. With the qualifiers around the corner, it will become important for the WBSC, CEB and ESF to weigh the IOC’s sanctions and concerns against the creation of a fair opportunity for all of Russia’s clean athletes.

Following the conclusion of the 2018 Games in PyeongChang, the IOC may lift the ROC suspension provided all sanctions are respected and guidelines are followed.

Read the IOC Board’s complete decision.

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