International Olympic Committee Bans Russia, Though Not Russian Athletes
IOC suspends Russian Olympic Committee, provides provisions for Russians to compete under Olympic flag; no certainty any of them will do so.
Four years ago the Russian flag flew proudly by the Olympic one, as the country hosted the 2014 Olympic Winter Games. Now, it’s not going to fly in the 2018 Games at all, and there might not be any of the athletes there either.
Since then, of course, it’s become clear that the country and those who rule it were no unable to accept the possibility they might perform as poorly at their home games as they did in 2010, they decided to cheat instead. In a massive, systematic, state-sponsored way that has since been exposed, though those still in power continue to deny it. After years of debate and investigations, and a month of one figure skating being cleared and various athletes from other sports being stripped of their medals, the International Olympic Committee, currently meeting in Lausanne, today announced Russia’s fate.
As well as a couple of the higher-ups of Russian sport, the IOC’s penalty falls on the Russian Olympic Committee, which is now indefinitely suspended with no certainty it’ll be reinstated in time for 2020. However, they have not barred the Russian athletes. They will allow “clean” Russian athletes to compete, but with their flag out, they’ll have to compete under the Olympic one. Much like the Unified Team did in 1992, after the Soviet Union’s collapse two months before the Winter Games, they’ll even have their own team name and code, being known as Olympic Athletes from Russia (OAR).
There are currently doubts as to whether any of them will actually compete. It’s not even entirely certain on what level that decision’s even going to be made. Vladimir Putin is speaking in Moscow tomorrow, and if he announces no Russian athletes will compete, that will likely be that. But he’s not the only one who might make the call. If he doesn’t, the Russian figure skating federation might do so. The comments from various Russian sports federations came in after the verdict, and skating federation president Alexander Gorshkov said they would talk about it next week, after the Grand Prix Final.
A couple of other sports federation presidents even said they might leave it up to the individual athletes. It’s difficult to guess what they’d do, if that’s what ultimately happens in skating. Top Russian skater Evgenia Medvedeva was already in Lausanne, and was among those that addressed the IOC. When she did, she claimed she would not compete as a neutral athlete. But after the ban came down, she apparently started having second thoughts, saying it’s too early in decide. Although given the likely gold she’d be giving up, cold feet are certainly understandable. But even if they aren’t outright forbidden to go, there’s a strong possibility of athletes being bulled out of it.
One hopes that the skaters, at least, will go. After all, all indications are that they aren’t the ones doping. The IOC would probably be willing enough to admit them all in, in accordance with the rules for the OAR team they’ve set up. And even if some choose not to compete, so long as there’s any substantial amount of athletes going for it, there are enough skaters that the berths should all be filled. But the prospects simply don’t look good.
Yet some are crediting Medvedeva’s plea to the IOC for keeping the ban from being more stringent, including ROC head Alexander Zhukov. It would be a further shame if all the good she did was lost due to a boycott.
There are further consequences to worry about, such as Russia possibly even convincing other countries to boycott, though they don’t have as much of the world under their control as they did in 1984. And of course, that one of their allies out means one reason less for North Korea to refrain from bombing the games. Still, despite how the loss of Russian figure skaters will only undermine that particular competition, it’s hard to blame the IOC. Russia’s sins were such that they could not be ignored. Some are even arguing they didn’t go far enough, but should’ve banned athletes as well as country.
Not that nearly enough people living in the country will necessarily understand that. Russian media has been spinning this like mad as a Western conspiracy, and likely will continue to do so. And The All-State Russia Broadcasting Company, which holds the rights to the Olympics, have already said they won’t show them. It’s all too possible Putin will try to keep the athletes out of the Games simply so he can better portray them as martyrs.