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Winter Olympics Conclude As Russians March Under Neutral Flag

Pyeongchang Olympics' closing ceremony

The 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, have officially concluded, with athletes from Russia marching under a neutral flag at the closing ceremony after Olympic officials upheld a doping-related ban on the country's team.

International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach declared the Olympics over on February 25 at a closing ceremony attended by a high-level North Korean delegation and Ivanka Trump, the daughter of U.S. President Donald Trump.

The Russian athletes at the closing ceremony marched into the stadium without their flag while wearing jackets bearing the title "Olympic Athlete From Russia."

Earlier in the day, the IOC voted to maintain the Russia team ban at the Games.

It said, however, that the Russian Olympic ban would be lifted if no more doping violations from Russian athletes at the Pyeongchang games are found.

The unanimous vote by the members of the IOC on February 25 came minutes after its executive board announced it had recommended that the ban remain in place through the Olympics.

The Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) said it hoped to restore its Olympic credentials in the coming days.

"We hope and really count on that in the next few days, the membership of the Russian Olympic Committee in the IOC will be completely restored," it said in a statement.

"In light of the situation, we consider that the restoration of the rights of the ROC and all Russian athletes will be the main result of the Olympic Games that are ending today."

Russia was banned from the Pyeongchang games over what the IOC described as a state-run, systemic doping program at the Winter Olympics in Sochi in 2014, but 168 Russians were allowed by the IOC to compete under the OAR designation and under the Olympic flag.

It was initially believed that Russia's Olympic Committee would be reinstated by the IOC for the closing ceremony, even after curler Aleksandr Krushelnitsky was caught using the banned substance meldonium and stripped of the mixed-doubles bronze.

But the tide appeared to have reversed after Russian bobsledder Nadezhda Sergeyeva also failed a doping test, for the metabolic agent trimetazidine, and was disqualified February 24 by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

"This was hugely disappointing and, in addition to other considerations, prevented the IOC from even considering lifting the suspension for the closing ceremony," Bach said.

He added that Russia's Olympic status should be reinstated only after it is confirmed the Russians had committed no other doping violations at the Pyeongchang games, which conclude on February 25.

Final drug-testing results are not expected for at least several days, officials said.

Yelena Valbe, president of the Russian cross-country skiing federation, said she was "very disappointed."

"Some athletes stayed behind later with the hope that they would be walking under the Russian flag. I've heard athletes say that they were staying just because they wanted to walk with the flag and in our uniform," she added.

Before the IOC voting, Russia’s IOC member, Shamil Tarpischev, insisted that the overall team had complied with all established requirements.

"The two doping cases account for the lack of culture and education [of the individuals]. They are isolated," he said.

At least two other athletes from other nations tested positive for doping at the Olympics.

With reporting by AP, Reuters, and dpa