MOSCOW, Russia - The International Olympic Committee said on Tuesday that it was banning Russia from the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea over allegations of systematic, state-sponsored doping.
The IOC however said that Russian athletes who can prove that they are clean will be "invited" to compete in Pyeongchang.
According to IOC, those ‘clean’ athletes would have to meet strict guidelines and will compete under the name ‘Olympic Athlete from Russia’ (OAR).
These athletes will reportedly wear a uniform with that name on it and the Olympic anthem will be played at the ceremonies and a Olympic flag will be carried.
A recently established panel led by the Chair of the Independent Testing Authority (ITA), Velerie Fourneyron, will decide on these invitations.
It is unclear when that panel will issue decisions on who is eligible to compete but the IOC criteria require that those athletes in consideration must have undergone all pre-Games testing recommended by a taskforce advising anti-doping efforts before Pyeongchang.
As per the IOC criteria, athletes must not have been disqualified or declared ineligible for a previous anti-doping rule violation, a provision that seems unlikely to withstand appeals to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
While the IOC attempted to enforce the same criteria before Rio, a CAS panel struck it down as inconsistent with a prior ruling.
IOC President Thomas Bach said, “As an athlete myself, I am feeling very sorry for all the clean athletes from all (National Olympic Committees) who are suffering from this manipulation. This decision should draw a line under this damaging episode and serve as a catalyst for a more effective and more robust anti-doping system led by WADA.”
The decision marked the first such sanction by the IOC for doping.
The IOC’s executive board reached the decision after receiving a report from a commission chaired by Samuel Schmid, which confirmed “the systemic manipulation of the anti-doping rules and system in Russia” during the Sochi Olympics.
Schmid said, “We have never seen any such manipulation and cheating and this has caused unprecedented damage to Olympism and to sports.”
The IOC’s executive board also announced that Russia's Olympic Committee has been ordered to reimburse the IOC's costs of investigating the doping scandal.
Russia's Olympic Committee would also have to contribute $15 million to the establishment of the Independent Testing Authority.
The Deputy Prime Minister of Russia and former Minister of Sport, Vitaly Mutko, has been barred from attending any future Olympic Games.
ROC President Alexander Zhukov was suspended as an IOC member.
Bach has meanwhile also added that the IOC would attempt to organize ceremonies in Pyeongchang for the reallocation of medals from Sochi "to try to make up for the moments they have missed from the finish line or on the podium."
So far, it is not clear if any Russian athletes will compete in the games and Russian officials had earlier said it would boycott the event if the IOC adopted such a decision.
If Russia does indeed boycott the decision, it would mark the first time it has missed the Olympics since boycotting in 1984.
Bach has argued, “First of all, an Olympic boycott has never achieved anything. Secondly, I don’t see any reason there for a boycott by the Russian athletes because we allowed the clean Russian athletes there to participate and to show that there are clean athletes in Russia. And in this way, we think that these clean Russian athletes can be more about building a bridge into the future of a cleaner sport than erecting a new wall between Russia and the Olympic movement.”