Russia has been banned from competing at next year’s Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang by the International Olympic Committee.
But Russian athletes who can prove they are clean would be allowed to compete in South Korea under a neutral flag.
It follows an investigation into allegations of state-sponsored doping at the 2014 Games hosted by Russia in Sochi.
“This should draw a line under this damaging episode,” the IOC said.
IOC president Thomas Bach and his board – who made the announcement in Lausanne on Tuesday – came to the decision after reading through the findings and recommendations of a 17-month investigation headed up by the former president of Switzerland, Samuel Schmid.
The Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) has been suspended but the IOC said it will invite Russian clean athletes to compete in February under the name ‘Olympic Athlete from Russia’ (OAR).
Despite repeated Russian denials, the Schmid report has found evidence of “the systemic manipulation of the anti-doping rules and system” which back up previous allegations of government involvement in cheating in the run-up to and during the Winter Olympics almost four years ago.
Bach said: “This was an unprecedented attack on the integrity of the Olympic Games and sport. This should draw a line under this damaging episode and serve as a catalyst for a more effective anti-doping system.”
The Games in South Korea, which start on 9 February, will now be without one of the powerhouses of Olympic sport.
Why is Russia’s Olympic Committee banned?
This entire investigation was instigated by whisteblowing doctor Grigory Rodchenkov, who was director of Russia’s anti-doping laboratory during Sochi 2014.
He alleged the country ran a systematic programme of doping and claimed he had created substances to enhance athletes’ performances and switched urine samples to avoid detection.
The World Anti Doping Agency (Wada) enlisted the services of Canadian law professor and sports lawyer Dr Richard McLaren to look into the allegations.
The McLaren report concluded 1,000 athletes across 30 sports benefitted from the doping programme between 2012 and 2015.
Wada obtained what it said was a Russian laboratory database which it felt corroborated McLaren’s conclusions, while re-testing of Russian athletes’ samples resulted in a host of retrospective bans and stripping of medals.
Last week, another IOC commission, led by Swiss lawyer Denis Oswald, gave its full backing to evidence provided by Dr Rodchenkov.
What else has the IOC ruled?
As well as the Olympic Committee ban, the IOC has also decided to ban Russia’s deputy Prime Minister and former Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko from all future Olympic Games. He is currently the lead organiser for the 2018 World Cup, which is being staged in Russia next summer.
In his report to the IOC executive board, Schmid says Mutko, as the then minister for sport, “had the ultimate administrative responsibility for the acts perpetrated at the time”.
- No accreditation for any official from the Russian ministry of sport for the Olympic Winter Games Pyeongchang 2018
- Former Deputy sports minister, Yuri Nagornykh, is excluded from any participation in all future Olympic Games
- Dmitry Chernyshenko, the former CEO of the organising committee Sochi 2014, is withdrawn from the Coordination Commission Beijing 2022
- ROC President Alexander Zhukov is suspended as an IOC member, given that his membership is linked to his position as ROC president
- The ROC is fined 15 million dollars (£11.2 million) to reimburse the costs of the investigations and to contribute to the establishment of the Independent Testing Authority (ITA
Action taken so far
- A total of 25 Russians have so far been banned from the Olympics for life on the recommendation of the IOC commission
- The first part of the McLaren report was published in July 2016, when Wada called on the IOC to ban Russia from the Rio Olympics
- The IOC decided against imposing a blanket ban, instead asking individual sporting federations to rule on their participation
- In total, 271 Russians competed in Rio
- Russia was banned from the Paralympics and remains banned from the 2018 Winter Paralympics.
Wada has not called again for the IOC to ban Russia, but recently declared that the country remains ‘non-compliant’ with its code.
The IPC will make public its decision on the potential participation of Russian athletes at the 2018 Winter Paralympics in London on 22 December.
What has been the reaction?
Russian state broadcaster VGTRK has said it will not broadcast the winter Olympic games if the Russian team is not participating.
“Our position is unchanged; without the participation of the Russian Olympic team in Pyeongchang, we will not be televising it,” VGTRK said in a press release cited by privately owned Russian news agency Interfax.
Russian Channel One TV anchor Artyom Sheinin said on the ‘Time Will Tell’ current affairs show that “our country has been deliberately, publicly, consciously humiliated”.
Senior MP Pyotr Tolstoy said on the same programme that Russia “will not repent”.
British sports minister Tracey Crouch tweeted that she was “pleased” with the decision.
What did Russia say about the claims?
Russian authorities have never acknowledged any involvement in doping, and president Putin has suggested the allegations are an attempt to sow discontent in the build-up to March’s presidential elections.
Olympic committee president Alexander Zhukov, who said in September he expected the country to have a team in Pyeongchang, reiterated the state’s innocence and said Wada’s recent judgement “cannot be accepted” and denied state-sponsored doping.
Sports minister Pavel Kolobkov has said the criteria for reinstatement have a “political character”. He added: “[The] committee has been inventing reasons not to reinstate Rusada; the accusations are a joke.”