On Tuesday, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) made a powerful announcement.
Russia has been banned from the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics.
The ban comes after a 17-month investigation confirmed years of intense suspicion and controversy. The IOC is convinced that the Russian government illegally gave (Russian) athletes performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) to give them an unfair advantage.
And now, the country has to pay the price.
The IOC really did it!
The IOC's judgment was highly anticipated, but still came as a bit of a shock. Russia is a major Olympic nation. It finished in the Top 5 nations in 5 of the last 6 Winter Games, and even hosted the last event (2014 in Sochi).
Plus when it comes to anti-doping, the IOC has a reputation for talking big but not fully delivering. Back when this Russian scandal first broke in 2016 — just before the Rio Summer Olympics — many called for a total ban of the country's athletes. Instead, while 111 athletes were banned, Russia and 278 of its athletes were still allowed to compete.
Now the IOC have finally delivered the punishment that many felt the crime always deserved. Except...
(...but still sort of didn't do it)
Russian athletes will still be allowed to compete in PyeongChang. Sorry, come again? But you said...
Yes, yes, we know. But the IOC also stated that athletes from Russia can compete as neutrals (no national anthem or flag allowed) as long as they pass new tests and have never been caught using PEDs in their past.
Reaction to this is mixed. While some feel that the ban still sends a strong message, others say this loophole makes the ban somewhat meaningless. If the country is banned, why would any of its athletes be allowed in at all?
Your move, Russia
So when the news of the ban came down, Russia was basically all, "Whatevs". Kidding.
The news was obviously a huge disappointment. You have to feel for the clean Russian athletes whose dreams are now in jeopardy. Imagine training four years for this one event, only to be banned because your government insisted on cheating?
Of course, Russia still denies that it ever did cheat. And despite this ban, it has a few options:
- It can submit athletes for testing and send them as neutrals
- It can submit an appeal and hope to quickly make a case that would lessen the ban
- They can boycott (refuse to attend) the Games
A boycott is drastic, but Russia has done it before. Back when it was the Soviet Union, it and several allies sat out the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Games. Of course, this was in response to the fact that the United States and many of its allies boycotted the 1980 Moscow Summer Games (which was done to protest the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan). Phew!
Sports and politics
All of this comes back to a simple truth about the international events like the Olympics. Yes, they're about sports. But these events are also very political. And whether Russia is guilty or not, it won't take this embarrassment lightly.
Speaking of international sporting events, is there anything else going on in 2018? What's that? The World Cup?! And it's in...RUSSIA?!?
This could get even more interesting...
Do think this Russia ban is fair?