Pyeongchang, South Korea will host the 2018 Winter Olympic Games, but Russia will not be there. The global juggernaut was found guilty of doping its athletes, and the International Olympic Committee has banned Russia from the upcoming Winter Olympics as punishment.
Some Russian athletes will still be able to compete, but they’ll be doing it while wearing a neutral uniform and any medals they win won’t be credited to the country of Russia. These neutral athletes will still have to be approved by the I.O.C., and some sports will likely not have a Russian presence at all. For example, biathlon and cross-country skiing are two sports that had a very high number of drug violations, so any Russian athletes in those two disciplines who attempt to compete under a neutral label will likely come under severe scrutiny by the committee.
The drama stems from an event at the 2014 Sochi Games, where Russia’s sports ministry tampered with urine samples to conceal the fact that many of their top athletes had used steroids throughout the course of the competition. The investigation resulted in more than two dozen Russian athletes being disqualified from the Sochi standings.
A spokesman from I.O.C. has said that a special medal ceremony will be held at the coming Games in Pyeongchang, where medals will be retroactively reassigned to new winners from Sochi. In addition, the Russian Olympic Committee was also fined $15 million to be put toward the drug testing of athletes.
The impact of the Olympic ban could have far-reaching implications, beyond just winter sports. The $11 billion soccer World Cup is to be held in Russia next year. Vitaly Mutko is the chairman of the Russian organizing committee for the World Cup, but he was also Russia’s top official during the 2014 Sochi Games, and he was directly implicated in the investigation. As a result, Mr. Mutko was permanently banned from the Olympics. It’s unknown how much this will affect his role in the World Cup preparation, which is scheduled to start in June 2018.