IOC votes not to lift Russian ban for Closing Ceremony

Olympic Athletes from Russia walk under the Olympic flag at the Opening Ceremony. (REUTERS)

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea — Just hours before the start of the Closing Ceremony of the 2018 Winter Games, the International Olympic Committee voted not to allow the Olympic Athletes from Russia the chance to march under the Russian flag to close out the PyeongChang Olympics.

The IOC executive board had recommended that a suspension against Russia for doping violations remain in place at least through the end of these games. Russia had been barred from competing under its own flag at this Olympics as a result of widespread and coordinated doping efforts at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

While the Russian delegation had met most of its obligations to the IOC, two separate doping cases discovered during the PyeongChang Games were apparently enough to give the IOC pause about restoring Russia’s status. The decision means none of the medals Russian athletes earned during these Games (16 so far) will count toward Russia’s total, and the record books will have Olympic Athletes from Russia listed as the competing nation.

“The IOC would have considered lifting the suspension because the OAR delegation as such respected the decision of the IOC Executive Board taken on the 5th of December 2017,” IOC president Thomas Bach explained of the executive board’s decision. “However, two Olympic athletes from Russia failed doping tests here in PyeongChang. This was hugely disappointing …”

According to a Washington Post report on Saturday, Russian spies hacked several hundred computers used by Olympic officials during the Opening Ceremony of the 2018 Games. According to the report, “analysts surmise the disruption was retaliation against the International Olympic Committee for banning the Russian team from the Winter Games due to doping violations.”

It’s not clear if the IOC membership considered the report in rendering its decision.

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