Why Was Russia Banned From the 2018 Winter Olympics?

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Russian athletes were banned from participating in the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games due to Russia’s state-run athletic doping program. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced the ban on Russian participation in Dec. 2017.

Russia’s Doping Program
A commission chaired by Samuel Schmid, the former president of Switzerland, found in 2016 that Russia was guilty of operating an extensive, government sanctioned doping program. The commission found that dozens of Russian Olympic athletes were guilty of taking performance-enhancing drugs, including 15 athletes who won Olympic medals at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games.

The commission also found that after taking performance enhancing drugs, Russian officials were able to replace urine samples that had traces of the drugs in them with clean samples that were taken from the athletes months earlier. The commission estimated that as many as 100 urine samples were replaced.

The IOC’s Response
The IOC announced in a press conference in Dec. 2017 that, due to Russia’s state-sponsored doping program, the country would be banned from the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games. Government officials from Russia are banned from attending, the nation’s flag will be removed from all Olympic events, and the Russian anthem will not be played during the Games.

Athletes from Russia who are able to prove that they did not use performance enhancing drugs are eligible to participate as individuals not affiliated with Russia, under the general IOC flag. These participants will be identified as “Olympic Athlete from Russia (OAR).” The medal count will not credit any medals won by these individuals to Russia.