Arthur J. Villasanta - Fourth Estate Contributor
Lausanne, Switzerland (4E) - The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has banned Russia and all its athletes from taking part in the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics that start Feb. 9 in South Korea after it found irrefutable evidence of "unprecedented systematic manipulation" of the anti-doping system abetted and encouraged by the Russian government.
The IOC also said no Russian officials will be allowed to attend the 2018 Winter Games. The Russian flag will be excluded from any display at the games.
The IOC noted that if any "clean" Russian athletes are given permission to participate, they won't compete under the Russian flag. These Russians will compete under the name "Olympic Athlete from Russia" (OAR) and the Olympic flag.
Any medals these Russian athletes win won't be credited to Russia. The Olympic anthem will be played in any ceremony where a Russian finishes in the top three.
The IOC also suspended Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) 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.
Russia can appeal this decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Some Russian officials said they're considering an all-out boycott of the PyeongChang Games, which is ludicrous since Russia has already been kicked out of the Winter Games.
"This was an unprecedented attack on the integrity of the Olympic Games and sport," said IOC president Thomas Bach about Russia's state-sponsored doping campaign.
"The IOC EB (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 (World Anti-Doping Agency)."
IOC said its Executive Board studied and discussed the findings of the commission led by the former president of Switzerland, Samuel Schmid, addressing the systematic manipulation of the anti-doping system in Russia.
This report focused on the manipulation at the anti-doping laboratory at the Olympic Winter Games Sochi 2014, which targeted the Olympic Games directly.
After 17 months of extensive work, the Schmid Commission gathered evidence and information and held hearings with all the main actors.
The IOC said the conclusions of the Schmid Report, on both factual and legal aspects, confirmed "the systemic manipulation of the anti-doping rules and system in Russia, through the Disappearing Positive Methodology and during the Olympic Winter Games Sochi 2014, as well as the various levels of administrative, legal and contractual responsibility, resulting from the failure to respect the respective obligations of the various entities involved."
Among the IOC punishments inflicted on Russia include:
* Suspending the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) with immediate effect.
* Not accrediting any official from the Russian Ministry of Sport for the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018.
* Excluding then Minister of Sport, Vitaly Mutko, and his then Deputy Minister, Yuri Nagornykh, from any participation in all future Olympic Games.
* Removing Dmitry Chernyshenko, the former CEO of the Organising Committee Sochi 2014, from the Coordination Commission Beijing 2022.
* Suspending ROC President Alexander Zhukov as an IOC Member, given that his membership is linked to his position as ROC President.
These punishments, the first inflicted on any IOC member state and the most severe, was in response to Russia's elaborate and extensive doping scheme during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Russia won this Olympics with a total of 33 medals, the most won by any country in Winter Olympics history.
The subsequent fallout from the independent McLaren Report that confirmed allegations of state-sponsored doping in Russia, however, resulted in 11 of these medals being withdrawn based on positive drug test results on Russian medal winners. More medals are expected to be taken back by the IOC.
The McLaren Report was commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) in May 2016. Part 1 of the McLaren Report presented in July 2016 proved the systematic state-sponsored subversion of the drug testing processes by the Russian government during and subsequent to the 2014 Winter Olympics.
As a result, Russia was suspended from all international athletic competitions by the International Association of Athletics Federations, including the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil. Russian weightlifters were banned from Rio Olympics for numerous anti-doping violations.
Part 2 of the report released in December resulted in sanctions against Russia imposed by several world athletic organizations involved in winter sports.
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