By SEAN BERMINGHAM
Tuesday Dec. 5 a historic decision was made by the International Olympic Committee to remove Russia from the coming Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. The sports juggernaut was exposed for systematic doping in unfathomable ways, and whose only reasonable comparison was the similar government backed program conducted by East Germany in the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s. The effect of this punishment will be that no Russian official will be allowed to attend the event and the Russian Flag will not be displayed at the opening ceremony, nor will their anthem be played. Any athletes that from Russia that receive special permission to attend or compete will do so wearing a neutral uniform and the official books will show that Russia earned zero medals regardless of their athletes’ performance.
The IOC had been conducting their investigation of the state-backed doping program that simply substantiated what the public has believed for over a year. As the situation stands now, the world is awaiting Russia’s response.
The most likely outcome is that Russian officials will boycott the games, although the news broke in the late evening in Russia so an immediate response was unlikely and currently the Russian Government has not responded to the disciplinary action. President Vladimir Putin seemed to align with the boycott as well, though this is unsurprising given his recent foreign policy centering on the premise that he was bringing Russia back from its humiliation from the West during the fall of the Soviet Union.
The athletes themselves are somewhat split on the issue. Some of those that remain clean are taking the stance that they are proud of their country and their heritage and will not compete unless it can be under the Russian flag. Others say that simply attending the Games is an honor and for some this may be their last possible trip as an athlete.
The IOC did make some concessions to the Russian in the ruling. One is that any Russian athletes that are proven “clean” can compete and will be referred to as “Independent Athletes from Russia” as opposed to “Independent Olympic Athletes” as was the situation when Kuwait was banned from the 2016 games. The second is that the ban may be lifted in time for the Russian flag to make a symbolic appearance in the closing ceremony in the final hours of the Winter Games.
The head figures in the International Olympic Committee said that the most disturbing part of the whole incident was not the cheating itself but how it was accomplished. The Russian officials in the Olympic committee corrupted the Olympic laboratory that handled the drug testing at the Games. It has been revealed that during the 2014 Sochi Games more than 100 urine sample were tampered with by a team assembled by the Russian Sports ministry to conceal steroid use throughout the course of the competition. Because of this discovery over two dozen Russian athletes have been retroactively disqualified from the 2014 Games and the standings have been altered as a result. Olympic officials are still sorting through the tainted results and rescinding medals. The Russian Olympic Committee were also fined $15 million Tuesday, with these funds reportedly going towards stricter drug testing for athletes.
Even through the confirmed credibility of whistleblowers reports and investigative discoveries the Russians continue to deny the charges and has failed to produce the evidence in the government’s possession, cementing in some minds the existence of a high-level conspiracy. Although the Russian though all of the meetings state that this is simply a western conspiracy to humiliate the nation.
This incident has further implications for the Russians as the next World Cup is slated to be held in Russia. Many of the same people who were outed by the various doping reports oversee ensuring the event goes smoothly. As of yet FIFA has said that the IOC’s punishments for Olympic doping would have no impact on its preparations for the World Cup Tournament.