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Russia’s Olympic Team Banned From 2018 Winter Games

Russian team celebrate during the medal ceremony during the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.  Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

The 2018 Winter Games will not feature Russia’s Olympic team, the country’s flag or the anthem, Thomas Bach, the head of the International Olympic Committee, announced in a press conference on Tuesday, December 5.

“This was an unprecedented attack on the integrity of the Olympic Games and sport,” he said regarding Russia’s doping system. “The IOC EB, after following due process, has issued proportional sanctions for this systemic manipulation while protecting the clean athletes. This should draw a line under this damaging episode and serve as a catalyst for a more effective anti-doping system led by WADA.”

International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach and Chairman of IOC Inquiry Commission into alleged Russian doping at Sochi 2014 Swiss Samuel Schmid attends a press conference following an executive meeting on Russian doping, on December 5, 2017 in Lausanne. Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images

“As an athlete myself, I feel very sorry for all the clean athletes from all NOCs who are suffering from this manipulation,” he added. “Working with the IOC Athletes’ Commission, we will now look for opportunities to make up for the moments they have missed on the finish line or on the podium.”

Any Russian athletes who do compete will do so as individuals in neutral uniforms and will have to pass strict scrutiny. They will be competing under the title “Olympic Athlete from Russia (OAR).”

Additionally, Russia’s deputy prime minister, Vitaly Mutko, was given a lifetime ban, preventing any involvement in the Games. Bach is also demanding the Russian government pay the IOC $15 million for the cost of the investigation. During the 2014 Sochi Olympics, Russians took home 33 medals, the most of any country. Six of those medals have been taken away after evidence was uncovered revealing a doping operation.

The Olympics begin in PyeongChang, South Korea on February 9.