Recently, the IOC has announced a complete ban of Russia participating in the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games. This means that Russian officials are forbidden to attend, its anthem will not be played, and its flag will not be allowed to be present at the competition. If the athletes compete, they will have to compete as individuals. They can win medals but none for Russia.
This ban is the result of a years long investigation into the extent of Russian doping. It appears that 1/3 of the Russians who won medals in 2014 were involved in the scandal. The doping was hidden for so long as the urine samples of the athletes were doctored and replaced by members of the Russian sports ministry and medical staff operating on their behalf. This swapping out of samples was effective as genuine samples had been taken from the athletes prior to them taking drugs. It was legitimately their urine, just from an earlier time. This was done in utmost secrecy and with the approval of the Russian state.
I believe that this is fascinating as this is the largest penalty ever imposed on a participating country by the Olympic committee. This can be seen by the world as a serious effort to reduce the amount of doping that is done in the events. I am confident that if the penalty were lighter, the Russians would likely continue with their abuses of the games as early as 2020, along with several other countries. If the IOC can be seen to have teeth, it may discourage others from following in Russia’s footsteps.
It is likely that I will watch the competition when I am abroad in Italy. With Russia out of the picture, countries like the U.S., Canada, South Korea, Japan, and those around the Baltic Sea will likely pick up quite a few more medals.