What the Russian Doping Scandal Means for the 2018 Winter Olympics

January 5, 2018, 9:14 PM UTC
ISU World Cup Speed Skating - Heerenveen
HEERENVEEN, NETHERLANDS - NOVEMBER 11: Ruslan Murashov of Russia looks on before he competes in the Mens 500m race on day two during the ISU World Cup Speed Skating held at Thialf on November 11, 2017 in Heerenveen, Netherlands. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos - ISU/ISU via Getty Images)
Dean Mouhtaropoulos—ISU via Getty Images

The 2018 Winter Olympics, which take place in Pyeongchang, South Korea from Feb. 9 through Feb. 25, will be missing a key competitor.

While the North Korean team may be invited to participate and people speculate on whether ticket sales will fall flat amid security concerns, one thing is certain: The Russian team will not be allowed to compete.

Some Russian athletes have been banned from the games for life.

Which Russian athletes have been banned for life

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) banned 43 Russian athletes for doping during the 2014 Olympics in Sochi.

The most recent rulings from the IOC came at the end of December and banned 11 more athletes: Luge competitors Tatiana Ivanova and Albert Demchenko; speed skaters Ivan Skobrev and Artem Kuznetcov; cross-country skiers Nikita Kryukov, Alexander Bessmertnykh, and Natalia Matveeva; bobsledders Liudmila Udobkina and Maxim Belugin; and ice hockey players Tatiana Burina and Anna Shchukina.

Speed Skating - Winter Olympics Day 14
(L to R) Denis Yuskov, Ivan skobrev and Aleksandr Rumyantsev of Russia compete during the Men’s Team Pursuit Quarterfinals Speed Skating event on day fourteen of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Adler Arena Skating Center on February 21, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.Quinn Rooney/Getty Images
Quinn Rooney—Getty Images

All 43 are expected to appeal their lifetime bans in the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). The CAS is an independent ruling body, but its jurisdiction is recognized by all Olympic and non-Olympic federations.

Although the team is banned, some Russian athletes will still compete under a neutral flag. They won’t be allowed to wear their country’s colors on their uniforms.

Why Russian athletes are banned

The IOC has been re-testing all Russian athletes’ samples from the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi for performance-enhancing drugs after Grigory Rodchenkov, the former head of Moscow’s discredited anti-doping laboratory, revealed a state-run doping scheme in 2016.

The whistleblower fled to the United States and now says he fears for his life.

People pose for pictures with the Olympic rings left behind from the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi on June 26, 2017.Patrik Stollarz/AFP/Getty Images
Patrik Stollarz—AFP/Getty Images

There are 46 cases the IOC is investigating as part of the doping apparatus that they say benefitted Russian athletes from between 2011 and 2015. The latest 11 rulings at the end of December resulted in all athletes being banned. And since then, three athletes have been cleared.

The IOC retroactively disqualified all of Russia’s athletes in the Sochi games and stripped the country of the 13 medals it won there. The Russian Olympic Committee was also ordered to pay the IOC $15 million to cover the costs of the investigation and to help establish an Independent Testing Authority.

Beyond the Winter Olympics

Some Russian competitors banned from the Olympics will still be able to participate in other international games.

Seven Russian bobsled and skeleton athletes banned by the IOC were cleared to compete in World Cup events, the CAS confirmed Thursday.

Final Draw for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia
The Russian deputy prime minister Vitaly Mutko and FIFA President Gianni Infantino talk to the media during a talk show presentation prior to the 2018 FIFA World Cup Draw at the Kremlin on December 1, 2017 in Moscow, Russia.Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
Shaun Botterill—Getty Images

The chairman of Russia’s local World Cup organizing committee stepped down amid allegations that he supervised and funded the state-run doping operation. Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko is fighting a lifetime ban from the Olympics and FIFA officials thanked him for stepping aside “in the interests of the 2018 World Cup in Russia,” state-run media reported.

Mutko denies the existence of any state-sponsored doping program.

“I am not resigning and my mandate will be still valid,” he said, according to RT. “I will definitely return after the six months, perhaps earlier.”

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