Russia were banned from the 2018 Olympics on Wednesday over state-sponsored doping but the International Olympic Committee said Russian competitors would be able to compete “under strict conditions”.
The IOC announced the decision after examining evidence of state-sponsored doping over several years that reached a high-point at the Winter Olympics hosted in Sochi, Russia, in 2014.
Nations have in the past been barred from taking part in the Olympics, notably South Africa during the apartheid years, but none has ever been handed a blanket ban over doping. Russian athletes, however, would be able to take part in the Games, the IOC said, as independent competitors “under the Olympic flag”.
“We find it the second-best alternative, albeit not the best, that Russian players are at least allowed to compete individually,” said Lee Hee-Bum, chief of the Pyeongchang organising committee for February’s Winter Olympics in South Korea.
The ban constitutes the toughest sanctions ever levelled by the IOC for drug cheating while still offering Russian athletes who can prove they are clean a route to compete in Pyeongchang. The ban follows an explosive report by the World Anti-doping Agency and two subsequent IOC probes have confirmed that Russian athletes took part in an elaborate drug cheating programme which peaked during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.