Russians to take part in 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics as 'Olympic Athletes from Russia'

Russians to take part in 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics as 'Olympic Athletes from Russia'

Russia has been banned from the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics after the IOC found evidence of an "unprecedented systematic manipulation" of the anti-doping system.

However, the committee ruled that "clean" Russian athletes will be allowed to take part in the upcoming Olympic Games under a neutral flag as 'Olympic Athlete from Russia' (OAR). Individual athletes can still receive a permission to take part as neutral athletes and compete under the Olympic flag if they have no previous penalties or disqualifications for doping and pass all pre-Games targeted doping tests. They will compete with a uniform bearing this name and under the Olympic Flag. The Olympic Anthem will be played during any ceremony with their participation.

The invitation list will be determined by a panel led by Valerie Fourneyron, the chair of the Independent Testing Authority (ITA). The panel will also determine an invitation list for support staff and officials.

No member of the leadership of the Russian Olympic Team at the Olympic Winter Games Sochi 2014 can be included on this list. Besides, no coach or medical doctor whose athlete has been found to have committed an anti-doping rule violation can be invited.

The IOC also decided to suspend 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.

Zhukov paints the ruling as a compromise, saying "there's positive and negative sides," and praising the International Olympic Committee decision to use the term 'Olympic Athlete from Russia' for Russian competitors under a neutral flag. The ROC President noted that "they'll be called Russian athletes and not some kind of neutrals ... that's very important."

Previously, suspended countries have used terms such as 'Independent Olympic Athlete', which was used last year for Kuwaiti competitors at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

The upcoming Olympics, which are the 23rd Winter Games, will take place in South Korea’s PyeongChang on February 9-25, 2018.

A creative producer and the host of Vesti FM, Gia Saralidze, speaking with a correspondent of Vestnik Kavkaza, said, that the IOC's unprecedented decision affects the whole system of international sports. "Now we see that the IOC crosses out all the existing rules. It was simple before: every athlete has two doping tests - A and B. If A a positive, then a sample B is checked. If an athlete is caught, he is disqualified, Now these rules do not work: most athletes who are now disqualified for life were not caught doping," he noted.

"They were disqualified because they were allegedly involved in some sort of doping system, which Rodchenkov speaks about. There are no facts that many of these athletes have taken dope. Which means the change in the system: now, based on circumstantial evidence, you can strip medals and life-long disqualify any athlete," Saralidze stressed.

There is no question of boycotting the Games, since Russia will not be represented as a country at the Olympics. "There will be Russian athletes allowed by a special commission, and they will be called 'invited athletes'. According to the law, the Olympics are competitions of athletes, and no one can prohibit athletes from going to these competitions. There is another issue - the reaction of society," the creative producer of Vesti.FM pointed out.

Sports commentator Nikolai Saprin, in turn, is confident that decision to participate in the Olympics should be taken jointly. "Yesterday Alexander Zhukov said that there will be another meeting of Olympians on December 12, with the participation of coaches, athletes, and leaders of federations, they will probably make a final decision there. At the same time, each athlete has the right to decide for himself whether he will participate in the Olympics. Of course, if allowed by the IOC commission," he recalled.

According to him, the IOC understands that it fundamentally changes the rules. "The decision was predicted, and, of course, the IOC understands that this is an undermining of the Olympic movement in the form, which we usually understand and perceive. For Western countries, this is the only right decision, and many agree with the removal of Russia, but the next time this decision can affect the Western teams as well," Nikolai Saprin concluded.