IOC bans Russia from 2018 Winter Olympics

In a monumental announcement Tuesday, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) banned Russia from the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea for its part in a state-sponsored blood-doping program at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

The announcement was made by IOC President Thomas Bach in Lausanne, Switzerland, adding that the Russian Olympic Committee must pay $15 million in costs for its actions.

However, the unprecedented punishment handed down by the IOC ahead of this winter’s Olympic Games will not extend to Russian Olympic athletes according to The Guardian. The media outlet went on to add that Russian winter athletes will be allowed to compete under Olympic flag if they are able to prove they were not involved in the 2014 performance-enhancing scandal. Instead of the Russian national anthem, the Olympic anthem will be played during any medal ceremony.

The IOC took action after reviewing a multi-year investigation by former Swiss president, Samuel Schmid, that detailed the, “systematic manipulation of the anti-doping rules and system,” according to the BBC. The report goes on to accuse the Russian Olympic Committee of leading a blood-doping campaign that may have affected results in the 2012 London Games, as well as the 2014 Sochi Games.

Blood-doping is the practice of boosting the red blood cell count in order to enhance athletic performance. Because red blood cells carry oxygen from the lungs to the muscles, an increased amount of red blood cells has been shown to increase athletic endurance and aerobic capacity, letting athletes go stronger, longer. The practice was banned by the IOC in 1985.

This is not the first time Russia has been involved in blood-doping accusations. In fact, the country has been stripped of 49 Olympic medals, more than any other nation in the world.

Still, the verdict handed down by the IOC on Tuesday was the largest action ever taken against the world’s largest nation. Initially, it has been met unfavorably from both sides.

There have been suggestions that Russia would consider boycotting the 2018 Games over the verdict, but no announcement has been made yet by Russian president, Vladimir Putin according to The Guardian.

On the other side of the aisle, many feel that the IOC was too light on Russia, and should have enforced a full ban on its athletes for 2018.

While the fallout of the IOC’s declaration will continue to unfold over the coming weeks, one thing is for certain: The Russian flag will be absent from the 2018 Winter Games in South Korea.

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