A 17-month doping investigation has turned up enough evidence to blanket ban the Russians from competing in next year's Olympics in South Korea.

By Joe McDonough

Posted on December 6, 2017

The International Olympic Committee has banned Russia from the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea for systematic doping.

Just hours ago, IOC president Thomas Bach fronted a press conference and announced that “the Russian Olympic Committee is suspended with immediate effect”.

“This was an unprecedented attack on the integrity of the Olympic Games and sport,” he said.

“The IOC, 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.”

It comes after a 17-month investigation headed by former president of Switzerland and IOC commission chairman Samuel Schmid.

In detailing the evidence that led to the ban, Mr Schmid said there was proof beyond the testimony of whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov, who was the former head of Moscow’s anti-doping laboratory.

“There is scientific evidence, witness statements, documents and correspondence,” he said.

“The facts are that in Russia there was systemic manipulation of doping and the anti-doping system… that also took place at Sochi 2014 [Winter Olympics].”

The facts are that in Russia there was systemic manipulation of doping and the anti-doping system… that also took place at Sochi 2014.

At Sochi, Russia won seven more medals than its nearest rival, and the most gold with 13.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko was banned for life from the Olympics over his influence on the doping program as Sports Minister, and Russia’s Olympic Committee (ROC) president Alexander Zhukov has had his IOC membership revoked.

Mr Mutko is also president of Russia’s football union, and with the nation hosting the 2018 World Cup, there will be pressure on the sport’s governing body FIFA to take action as well.

“As a former athlete I am feeling very sorry for all the clean athletes who are suffering from this manipulation,” Mr Bach said.

“We had a Russian delegation today and gave them again the opportunity to express themselves.

“In this meeting this afternoon the president of ROC has apologised.”

Russian athletes were previously at the mercy of international sports federations as to whether they could compete at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil, and the majority were granted clearance.

“[Ahead of Rio] there was no opportunity to hear the Russian side, and at the time of Rio it was mainly about the failure in the Moscow lab,” he said.

“Now it’s about the manipulation of an Olympic lab. The conditions then and now are totally different.”

The IOC will allow clean athletes to compete “by invitation only” but they will be labelled an “Olympic Athlete from Russia (OAR)” and they won’t be supported by the national flag or anthem.

President Vladimir Putin is expected to refuse that offer and boycott the Games, having previously said it would be humiliating for athletes to compete as ‘neutrals’ without their national symbols.

Russia claims it is a conspiracy

The head of the Russian Curling Federation, Dmitry Svishchev, is convinced the ban is a conspiracy against Russia.

“I am profoundly convinced that it was made under pressure,” he said. “Someone needed Russia not to participate in the Games.”

I am profoundly convinced that it was made under pressure.

Alexei Kravtsov, president of the Russian Skating Union, said the ban would dilute the Olympic product.

“It is completely unjustified. I consider that this decision will deal a great blow to the whole Olympic movement,” he said.

Russian state media has since announced that it will not televise the Winter Olympics.

“We do not change our position we will not broadcast the 2018 Olympic Games in Pyeongchang in the absence of the Russian National Team there,” said VGTRK press service.

While other nations have been barred from competing in previous Olympics, this is the first time a blanket ban has been imposed over doping manipulation.