The International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced Dec. 4 that Russia will be banned from competing in the upcoming 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. This ruling followed an investigation that brought to light a state-backed cover up of Russian athletes who were found guilty of using performance-enhancing drugs during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, hosted by their home country. The IOC may allow some Russian athletes to compete if they prove to be clean after rigorous doping tests, but they will be required to do so under the Olympic flag. The Russian flag will not be shown at the opening ceremony and the anthem will not be played even if a Russian athlete wins an event. Russian President Vladimir Putin has issued a statement that he will not interfere with any athlete who wishes to compete under a neutral flag, however, the decision has been met with dissent from some athletes.
“I cannot accept the option that I would compete in the Olympic Games without the Russian flag as a neutral athlete,” figure skater Evgenia Medvedeva said in a statement released by Russia’s Olympic Committee. She was a favorite for Olympic gold pre-ban. “I am proud of my country; it is a great honor for me to represent it at the games.”
Based on recent world championship-level competitions, Russian athletes would have been top contenders for first to fifth place in 32 of the 102 Olympic events, according to The New York Times. They also were contenders for the gold medal in men’s 4×7.5K relay, men’s team sprint freestyle and men’s skiathlon in cross-country skiing, and women’s single skating. Even if a Russian athlete does place, the official record will show that Russia won zero medals at the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics.
The IOC has yet to confirm whether or not Russian athletes will be at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, but it is certain that there will need to be drastic corrections made to anti-doping regulations before a decision can be reached.