Olympic officials have banned Russia from competing in the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Tuesday’s ruling follows an extended investigation by the International Olympics Committee (IOC), which confirmed the allegations that dozens of Russian athletes were part of a state-run, systematic doping scandal. Of the dozens of athletes who were part of the doping, at least 15 were also medal winners, including three athletes who were awarded gold medals for their performances in bobsledding, cross-country skiing, and skeleton.
The former director of the Anti-Doping Centre in Moscow, Grigory Rodchenkov, who was originally praised by both Putin, the IOC, and the World Anti-Doping Agency for his successful anti-doping program at Sochi, played a central role in helping the 2014 Russian Olympic team pull off one of the most intricate and, until now, successful doping plots in Olympic history. Rodchenkov, who, according to The New York Times, has since fled Russia and is living in an undisclosed location in the United States, ran the laboratory in Sochi that handled the testing for thousands of the 2014 Winter Game athletes.
In an interview with filmmaker Bryan Fogel, the chemist admitted to developing a mixture of three different banned substances that were given to Russian athletes. Rodchenkov also described how a group of antidoping experts and Russian intelligence service members that were assembled by the Russian Sports Ministry worked overnight to replace tainted urine samples and cover up Russian athletes’ use of steroids throughout competition. Rodchenkov’s claims were also supported in a 2015 report by the World Anti-Doping Agency.
To add to the mix, Rodchenkov revealed that the 2014 Winter Games were the crux of a “decade-long effort to perfect Russia’s doping strategy,” following which he received an Order of Friendship from Vladimir Putin, a decoration of the Russian Federation that is awarded by the president to those whose work has been “aimed at the betterment of relations with the Russian Federation and its people.”
However, in a reversal of this commendation from the Russian president, the World Anti-Doping Agency, and the IOC, the World Anti-Doping Agency released allegations against Rodchenkov as the spearhead in an “extensive state-sponsored doping program.” Shortly following the accusations, Rodchenkov resigned from his post and fled the country, while two of Rodchenkov’s colleagues died unexpectedly within weeks of each other.
As of late, Russian officials have continued to disparage the claims against them, describing the allegations as an attack on Russian sport and this has been the harshest punishment against the Russian Olympic team thus far, as they were still allowed to compete in the Rio 2016 Summer Games. Despite the fact that Russia will not have a team at the 2018 Winter Games, competition will still be open to select Russian athletes who will compete under a neutral flag and be named “Olympic athletes from Russia.” Additionally, there will be a ceremony at the 2018 Games to recognize and award medals to the definite winners from Sochi.