Thu | Dec 14, 2017

IOC: Russians can compete at Olympics, but without flag

Published:Wednesday | December 6, 2017 | 12:00 AM

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP):

Russians will be allowed to compete at the upcoming Pyeongchang Olympics as neutral athletes despite orchestrated doping at the 2014 Sochi Games, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said yesterday.

The IOC ruled that some Russians will be invited to compete as an "Olympic Athlete from Russia (OAR)" without their national flag or anthem.

Russia could refuse the offer and boycott the games. Russian President Vladimir Putin has previously said it would be humiliating for Russia to compete without national symbols.

"An Olympic boycott has never achieved anything," IOC President Thomas Bach said at a news conference. "Secondly, I don't see any reason for a boycott by the Russian athletes, because we allow the clean athletes there to participate."

Putin is expected to speak publicly about the ruling in Moscow today.

The IOC also suspended the Russian Olympic committee and IOC member Alexander Zhukov, and banned Russian Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko from the Olympics for life. Mutko was the sports minister in 2014 and is the head of the organising committee of football's next World Cup.

The IOC also imposed a fine of US$15 million on the Russian Olympic committee to pay for investigations into the case and towards future anti-doping work.

The sanctions could be challenged at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

The Russian doping programme caused "unprecedented damage to Olympism and sports," said IOC-appointed investigator Samuel Schmid, the former president of Switzerland who was asked to verify an "institutional conspiracy."

Russia has repeatedly refused to accept that a state-sponsored doping programme existed. Such denials helped ensure bans on its track federation and anti-doping agency have not been lifted.

Instead, Russia blames Grigory Rodchenkov, the former director of Moscow and Sochi testing laboratories, as a rogue employee. It wants the scientist extradited from the United States, where he is a protected witness.