Sochi, Russia held the last Winter Olympics in 2014, and under the hopeful eyes of their entire nation, the Russian team earned nine gold medals, placing fourth in the overall medal count. This was a surprising performance by the home-favorite, but even more surprising was the widespread illegal use of performance-enhancing drugs (PED’s).
In July of 2016, a report commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), known as the McLaren Report, revealed a state-sanctioned program that protected Russian athletes that used PEDs. Richard McLaren, a Canadian professor, searched urine samples and forensic data, conducted witness interviews, and cyber-analyzed hard drives publising a 97 page report that showed how Russian attempted to cover up government-facilitated athletic doping.
The administration under investigation included the Ministry of Sport, Centre of Sports Preparation of the National Teams of Russia, the Federal Security Service, and the Moscow WADA-accredited laboratory. The latter organization apparently had a system that switched Russian positive [for PEDs] urine samples in what the McLaren Report called “the disappearing positive methodology.”
Following the investigative reports from McLaren and WADA, the International Olympic Committee initiated an investigation into several Russian medal winners, to conclude whether or not to strip the athletes of their Olympic titles. In Cross Country Skiing, Russian athletes Alexander Legkov and Maxim Vylegzhanin, previous Olympic medalists, were included in several athletes with a lifetime ban from competition based on the McLaren report.
The Russian doping scandal still has serious repercussions on the Russian Olympic team. The International Olympic Committee voted Tuesday, Dec. 5, to ban Russia from the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, China. A Russian delegation traveled to Lausanne, Switzerland, to make the case for the IOC to include Russia in the upcoming games. The delegation included Russian Olympic Committee President Alexander Zhukov, Head of the anti-doping commission set up by President Vladimir Putin, and Russian figure skater Evgenia Medvedeva. At only 18, Medvedeva is the undefeated two-time defending world champion, and was a favorite to win gold in Pyeongchang.
The vote decided by the IOC stands that Russia will be banned from the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics. Any government officials are forbidden to attend, and Russia will not be included in the opening and closing ceremony. Any Russian athlete who is permitted to perform in the Olympics as an individual will wear a neutral uniform and not represent any country or team. They are still up for medal contention but Russia will go on the Olympic record for having won zero medals at Pyeongchang. Before the meeting, Medvedeva decided not to compete as a neutral athlete in the games. The number of competing Russian neutral athletes attending Pyeongchang is still unknown to the general public.
Tuesday’s vote dictated the future of not only Russian athletes, but also those of competing countries as well. Russian athletes, such as Medvedeva, have provided apt competition in the season leading up to the Olympics, elevating their sport. The IOC also had to consider the example Russia will be for the future of the Olympic Games. The IOC’s decision has clearly defined the Olympic Games’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs for years and games to come.