In 2018, the Winter Olympics will be held in PyeongChang, South Korea, and will occur on February 8 through the 25. The Winter Olympics have been a huge event in sports since its inaugural games in 1924. However, what makes these upcoming Olympic games interesting is that they will be missing an athletic superpower that has dominated for the most part of this event’s history. Russia has been banned from the 2018 Winter Olympics.
Russia has usually gotten into the top five in the Winter Olympics in terms of total medals earned. It even earned the most medals in the last Winter Olympics, which took place at Sochi in 2014. However, due to a recent scandal with Russian athletes, that is all about to change.
In early December, Russia was banned from the Winter Olympics due to a state-sponsored doping system being uncovered. Athletes were given performance-enhancing drugs and, with help from the state, coaches, and doctors, were able to successfully hide that fact.
It was shown through investigation and testimony that there was deliberate tampering of the methods used to test athletes for drugs. A similar system was shown to be used by the Russian’s about two years ago when they were banned from the 2016 Summer Games in Rio.
Additionally, Russia has been stripped of many of its medals from the last Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. Before the scandal the country was recognized with earning 33 total medals, 13 of which were gold. However, after the athletes who were shown to have been doping had their metals striped, a process which occurred in late November, the country’s total changed to 22 medals, only 9 of which were gold. This moved the country’s ranking from first place in those Olympic games, to 5.
Many speculate that Russia’s recent doping scandals have been done to make up for the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics. It was an oddity for the country; it had only placed eleventh overall against competing nations. It was a great shame for much of Russia, who was projected to get into at least the top ten. However, the specific turning point for the nation has not been conclusively found out. Regardless, Russia violated Olympic code in order to attempt to grant its athletes an edge against their competitors.
Much like the Russian ban of the 2016 Summer Olympics individual athletes from Russia will still be permitted to compete. They, of course, must first go through much investigation and drug testing. After that they will have the ability to play in the games as a neutral athlete. Additionally, the Russian flag will not be flown during the opening, or possibly the closing ceremony.
There is also debate as to whether or not the Russian anthem will be played. It is tradition that during the awards ceremony the theme of the gold medalist’s or medalists’ country will be played in the Olympic stadium. There is some movement to make it so if a neutral athlete from Russia wins a gold medal, the Russian national anthem will play. However, as of right now, if a Russian athlete is to win an event, then the Olympic anthem will be played.
It is not known how many athletes from Russia will even be permitted to compete under neutral status. During the 2016 Summer games, there were only two athletes who were allowed to be a part of the Olympics. Those athletes were also told not to compete by Russian officials, in a way of promoting solidarity, and, when they did, were outcast by much of Russia. Such a social belief, including the incredible scrutiny that neutral athletes will go through, only makes the task of competing in the Olympics a very daunting one for Russian athletes who are legitimately clean of drug use.
These recent events in Russia’s sporting history leads many to think about whether or not Russia truly is the athletic powerhouse it was once believed to be, and, in that regard, only time will tell.