Sunday, March 25News That Matters

IOC Reinstates Barred Russian Olympic Committee

IOC Reinstates Barred Russian Olympic Committee


LONDON — The International Olympic Committee has lifted its suspension of Russia, restoring the country to full-member status after barring it from the 2018 Winter Games as part of its punishment for running a state-backed doping program that corrupted several global sporting events.

Russia’s flag and anthem were missing from the recent Olympics, though more than 160 of the nation’s athletes were able to participate as neutrals called “Olympic Athletes From Russia.” Two of them accounted for half of the failed drugs tests at the Pyeongchang Games in South Korea.

Russia’s reinstatement followed a decision on Sunday by the I.O.C.’s executive board, led by Thomas Bach, its president, to bring Russia back into the fold on the condition that the remaining drug tests of its athletes from the Pyeongchang Games be confirmed as negative.

“We received a letter from the I.O.C., regarding the reinstatement of the R.O.C.,” the Russian Olympic Committee’s president, Alexander Zhukov, told reporters in Moscow. Zhukov was among the officials barred from the 2018 Winter Games. The I.O.C. confirmed the suspension had been lifted in a brief statement.

“I would like to thank our athletes who were able to perform well even despite the provocations,” Zhukov said, according to TASS news agency. “I thank the fans who did not cross the line and what could result in sanctions. Today’s I.O.C.’s decision is very important for us. The R.O.C. is an absolutely full-fledged member of the Olympic family.”

Scores of Russian athletes, coaches and officials were barred after an investigation into the yearslong conspiracy that peaked at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia, when the state security apparatus colluded with sports officials to swap drug-tainted urine samples with clean ones in a clandestine, dead-of-night operation.

The scandal and its aftermath have led to much upheaval in the global sporting movement, with many athletes and some of the I.O.C.’s own members critical of the way it had been dealt with. Richard Pound, the organization’s longest serving member, boycotted the closing of the Pyeongchang Games in protest. The doping scheme has now overshadowed no fewer than three Olympic Games.

Russia was finally punished by the International Olympic Committee in December, about two years after details of what Bach later described as an “unprecedented attack on the integrity of the Olympic Games and Sport” first emerged.

At Sunday’s I.O.C. session, where the plan to rehabilitate Russia was first announced, Nicole Hoevertsz, an official from Aruba tasked with monitoring Russian compliance, said the time had come to move on.

“We should draw a line, we have to draw a line and look to the future,” she said. After the two failed drugs tests by Russian athletes — by the curler Alexander Krushelnytsky and the bobsledder Nadezhda Sergeeva — the I.O.C. did not lift the suspension for the closing ceremony.

Russia has still not acknowledged there was a state-controlled doping operation in the country, something described in great detail by its former doping laboratory head Grigory Rodchenkov and confirmed by three separate investigations. The World Anti-Doping Agency said it would continue to regard Russia’s domestic drug testing organization as noncompliant until it does.

Many of Russia’s top athletes were barred from the 2018 Games because of links to the doping scandal. That led to a weak performance, and a vast downgrade from the doping-fueled success in Sochi, where Russia topped the medals table. Alina Zagitova, a 15-year-old figure skater, beat her compatriot Evgenia Medvedeva in a battle for gold, before the Russians secured the men’s ice hockey title in an overtime victory over Germany on the final day.

That win came after the I.O.C. announced Russia would not be able to march in the closing ceremony. The winning players sang the Russian national anthem, something they had been prohibited from doing by the I.O.C. as a condition of Russian athletes’ participation in the Games.

As well as the Olympic ban, Russia was forced to pay a $15 million fine. Still, the team’s uniform included the country’s name, something that the I.O.C. hadn’t permitted before for a team of neutral athletes. Bach said that was because of the desire not to “humiliate” Russia.

The effects of the scandal continue to roil the sports world. Several biathletes, including members of the United States team, have announced that they will not participate in next month’s season-ending competition in Russia, while soccer’s governing body, FIFA, is facing scrutiny just four months before the World Cup in Russia over claims of doping by players from there.

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