Russia will be banned from the 2018 Olympic Winter Games, after a widespread, state-backed doping system was exposed by investigators and whistleblowers. No Russian government officials will be allowed to attend, the Russian flag will not be flown, and the Russian anthem will not be played.
The harsh punishment is without precedent in the long history of the Olympic games. Some Russian athletes with a history of reliable drug tests may petition to compete in a neutral uniform, but their medals will not be counted for the country. It is unclear at this time how many will be approved, but the number is expected to be exponentially less than Russia’s usually-plentiful showing, given that dozens of Russian athletes have been implicated in the doping program.
The extensive nature of the Russian duplicity has shocked officials since the news came to light, with many attesting that they have never seen a country cheat in the games to such an elaborate extent.
Grigory Rodchnkov, who ran the laboratory responsible for testing thousands of Olympians, said he provided steroids to dozens of Russian athletes. Rodchenkov eventually blew the whistle on the operation, reporting that Russian anti-doping and intelligence service officials swapped as many as 100 dirty urine samples with clean urine over the course of several late nights for the 2014 games, their secret work being lit by only a single lamp.
Medals from previous games are still being rescinded, and Olympic officials say that a special medal ceremony will take place in the 2018 Games to award athletes who lost to Russian athletes who have thus far been found to have been taking performance-enhancing drugs. The Russian Olympic Committee has been fined $15 million.
“The world knows that hundreds of Olympic dreams have been stolen by the doping system in the country where I was born,” wrote Vitaly Stepanov, who was the first to speak out about the country’s doping.
This news will likely complicate the $11 billion soccer World Cup, which is scheduled to take place in Russia and is being run by a man who was directly implicated in Russian Olympic doping during the 2014 games.
This instance of further Russian cheating will also likely inflame many Americans who are still angry about the country’s attempt to tamper with the 2016 election in favor of Donald Trump, whose die-hard supporters are much more likely to have favorable opinions of Russia than other American demographics.