The International Olympic Committee is expected to punish Russia on Tuesday for a state-run doping program. The decision comes months before the next Winter Olympics, which begin in PyeongChang, South Korea, in February.
The International Olympic Committee will say whether Russia can compete in the upcoming 2018 Winter Olympics on Tuesday, deciding how to punish the country for a system of state-supported cheating by Russian athletes who used performance-enhancing drugs.
IOC President Thomas Bach will pronounce Russia’s fate at a news conference scheduled for 1:30 p.m. ET. You can watch it live on YouTube.
The decision by the IOC’s executive board follows last year’s McLaren Report from the World Anti-Doping Agency, which confirmed that Russia’s Olympics program had engaged in an “institutional conspiracy” to beat the system that included using a “mouse hole” to swap out athletes’ drug-tainted samples for clean ones. The investigation was led by Canadian law professor Richard McLaren.
Russian officials have refused to acknowledge the scope and depth of the findings about the country’s Olympic teams, saying that the problems were limited to individual athletes. Russian President Vladimir Putin has called the doping charges against Russia “a dangerous return to this policy of letting politics interfere with sport.”
Released in two phases, the McLaren Report concluded that Russia’s scheme involved more than 1,000 Russian athletes — and that it also included plans both for manipulating doping controls and for covering up the system.
Ahead of the IOC’s decision, NPR’s Lucian Kim visited Moscow’s famous Gorky Park to hear what Russians are making of the claims against their country in some of its most revered sports.
Speaking to Yekaterina Nogerova, whose 6-year-old daughter was skating out on the ice, Lucian says that she says a decision against Russia would be a “catastrophe” for her. Nogerova also said she’s upset that the consequences will likely punish athletes and fans, but not people in the government.
In releasing the McLaren report, WADA recommended that the IOC ban all Russian athletes and government officials from the 2016 Summer Olympics held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Both McLaren and WADA acknowledged that they lack the authority to punish Russia’s athletes.
Instead of issuing a blanket ban on Russia from competing in Rio, the IOC left it to the individual sports’ governing bodies to decide who got to compete. By the time the report came out, nearly all Russian track and field athletes had been banned by the International Association of Athletics Federations.
To investigate the claims against Russia, the Olympics’ governing body has been relying on two groups. A broad investigation is being led by the Inquiry Commission chaired by Samuel Schmid, a former President of Switzerland. Individual cases are being looked at by the Disciplinary Commission, chaired by Denis Oswald, a Swiss lawyer and former IOC executive board member.
Russia’s move into wholesale Olympic cheating is often traced to 2010, when the country’s athletes fell well short of expectations by winning only 15 medals at the Vancouver Winter Olympics — a bad omen as the country prepared to host the 2014 games in Sochi. Investigators say Russian officials went to elaborate means to ensure a better showing — and it worked, as Russia’s athletes more than doubled their medal count by winning 33 medals (13 of them gold), the most of any country.
But athletes’ blood and urine samples have been subjected to more analysis since the Sochi games, and in recent weeks, the IOC has been slicing into Russia’s medal count, disqualifying athletes from the Russian biathlon, bobsleigh, and cross-country skiing teams who were found to have broken anti-doping Rules.
As of last week, Russia had fallen far behind the U.S. and other countries on the Sochi results list. The American team now leads the way with the 28 medals it won in 2014, with Norway second — and that’s without the redistribution of medals that were taken away from Russian athletes.
The IOC has also been declaring sanctioned athletes to be ineligible for future Olympics as it strips them of their victories — an approach that has promised to reshape the field for the upcoming 2018 PyeongChang games in South Korea.