Why You Won’t See Russia in the 2018 Winter Olympics


Photo taken by Jude Freeman

Photo found at http://bit.ly/2BDABYn

On Tuesday, December 5, the International Olympic Committee announced that Russia will be banned from the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. The official statement read, “the systemic manipulation of the anti-doping rules and system in Russia … resulting from the from the failure to respect the respective obligations of the various entities involved.” The full details and conditions of the ban can be read here on the IOC’s official website.

The issue initially came to the media’s attention through an anonymous athlete who came forwards about the widespread use of banned substances among Russian Olympic athletes. Not only were these athletes using steroids and other performance enhancing drugs to give them an advantage, but the Russian Olympic Committee went to great lengths to cover up the use of these substances by tampering with the lab samples. In addition to being banned from the 2018 Olympics, Russia was forced to pay a 15 million dollar fine.

Unfortunately, issues with doping has been nothing new for Russia. The country has a long history with using banned substances during the Olympics. Part of the problem is that much of the steroid use is state-sponsored, and athletes feel obligated to dope in order to be on the team.

In 2014, the German broadcasting service ARD aired a documentary that shed light on the widespread use of steroids by the Russian Olympic team. Vitaly Stepanov, an employee at the Russian Anti-Doping Agency contacted the World Anti-Doping Agency hundreds of times over a period of three years describing the doping program established by the Russian Olympic Committee. His wife Yuliya Stepanova, a Russian athlete, also came forward about the use of steroids among her teammates. She also described how Russian officials supplied the athletes with illegal substances in exchange for a cut of the athlete’s salary.

Russia has been stripped of over 49 medals over the years as a result of doping. The announcement was met with anger from the Russian people and athletes. In an interview, Vladimir Putin said, “this is not just a recognition of Russia’s sporting achievements, but it is, beyond a doubt, a judgement of our country.”

As a result of the most recent doping scandal, the Russian team has been stripped of 11 medals, and 25 athletes have been barred from competing, and these numbers are just continuing to grow. All Russian Olympic officials have been removed from their positions, and all Russian Olympic team leaders that were involved can’t attend any ceremony or event. Any Russian athlete who had not already been barred, but still wishes to participate in the 2018 Olympics must pass extensive drug testing, and will compete under a neutral flag as an OAR (Olympic Athlete from Russia). Russia will not be recognized for any medals won by the OAR team, and, the Olympic Anthem will play if any of these athletes wins the gold. In regard to these conditions, Putin said, “we will not declare a ban, and we won’t stop our Olympians from taking part if some of them want to do so in a personal capacity.”

The Olympics start February 9. Make sure to tune in to see how the OAR team performs! This will be an Olympics to remember.