Russia Is Barred From Winter Olympics. Russia Is Sending 169 Athletes to Winter Olympics.
Russia is nominally barred from the coming Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, because of its state-backed doping program and an elaborate cheating scheme carried out at the last Winter Games. But Russia announced on Thursday it would send a robust team of 169 athletes to the Games, where they will compete as individual “Olympic athletes from Russia.”
That number is not far off the size of the Russian teams at past Winter Olympics. Russia had 232 athletes at the Sochi Games in 2014, where it dominated the medal standings, and 177 in Vancouver in 2010.
The International Olympic Committee announced in December that Russian government officials would be forbidden to attend the 2018 Games, the nation’s flag would not be displayed and its anthem would not be played.
But Olympic officials also said that athletes from Russia could receive special dispensation to compete if they satisfied the scrutiny of an antidoping review panel.
The work of that review panel, conducted over the last month, was opaque, even as antidoping regulators requested that the criteria used to evaluate each Russian athlete be made public. Leading up to the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, the I.O.C. had reversed the presumption of innocence, considering all Russian athletes tainted by their nation’s system of cheating unless they could prove a history of rigorous drug testing.
Last Friday, global Olympic officials announced they had cleared 389 Russian athletes to potentially compete in Pyeongchang, a generous pool that some criticized as neutering the sting of the I.O.C.’s punishment on a major sports power that had brazenly breached drug-testing controls.
“To protect the rights of clean athletes,” antidoping officials from 20 nations said in a statement last week, “it is necessary for the bar to be higher for OAR to compete in the upcoming Olympic Winter Games,” they said, using the acronym for Olympic athletes from Russia.
On Thursday, the I.O.C. named 17 factors it had taken into account in weighing eligibility for the potential Russian Olympians. Among the issues considered, the organization said, was each athlete’s possible implication in a sprawling investigation that raised questions about more than 1,000 athletes across 30 sports.
Officials also took into account a giant database regulators obtained from whistle-blowers last fall, reflecting incriminating drug tests from Russia’s national drug-testing lab in Moscow. The I.O.C. did not specify, however, how those criteria were applied, or if an athlete’s implication had necessarily constituted an automatic disqualification.
A spokesman for the I.O.C. said Thursday he had not seen the Russian Olympic Committee’s list. “The official list of invited Russian athletes will not be released before the Delegate Registration Meeting on Saturday,” he said.
Thomas Bach, the top global Olympic official, has defended his choice to allow a “new generation” of Russian athletes to compete. Last week the I.O.C. barred 111 others from taking part in the Games ever again, and more than 50 doctors and coaches were denied invitations.
Forty-two Russian Olympians have been banned for life as a result of the doping scandal, a punishment that the majority of those athletes have been litigating before the top international sports court this week, hoping to be exonerated before the Games open on Feb. 9.
Russia’s full delegation, the Russian news agency Tass reported, will be 340 people. Many of the athletes are expected to be first-time Olympians, the I.O.C. said. Still, some may occupy competition spots earned by their banned compatriots, who have been competing across numerous winter sports this season and qualifying for the Games in spite of their inability to attend.
A number of gold medal contenders are on Russia’s list, including the figure skating star Evgenia Medvedeva. Last month, Medvedeva traveled with top Russian sports officials to Lausanne, Switzerland, where the I.O.C.’s headquarters are, to lobby Olympic executives hours before they announced Russia’s punishment.
International Paralympic Officials barred all Russian athletes from the 2016 Games in Rio, in contrast to their Olympic counterparts, who ultimately cleared roughly 270. The Paralympic committee is expected to announce its decision about Russia’s participation in the 2018 Games on Monday.
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