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Shock, Applause, Outrage At Decision To Ban Russia From Olympics


The most serious doping allegations against Russia relate to its hosting of the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi.

World reaction to the banning of Russia from the 2018 Winter Olympics over allegations of state-sponsored doping has ranged from applause to shock and outrage.

Anti-doping authorities heralded the decision by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on December 5 as an important milestone in the fight against doping that will go a long way to discourage illegal drug use while giving clean athletes encouragement and inspiration.

"Clean athletes won a significant victory," said Travis Tygart, head of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency and a leading Russia critic who has accused Russia of "hijacking" the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi.

The U.S. Olympic Committee also praised what it called the IOC's "strong and principled decision."

Canadian investigator Richard McLaren, who authored landmark reports last year that found a Russian state scheme to help its athletes use drugs and cover up the results, congratulated the committee and said, "we need to change the culture of sport from a win-at-all-costs mentality to one that endorses fair competition."

While Russian authorities expressed shock and outrage at the decision, they were not quick to promise retaliation like an Olympics boycott, even though that was advocated by some Russian legislators.

Some Russian officials took comfort that Russian athletes who prove themselves to be free of drugs will be able to participate in the February games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Russian Olympic Committee President Aleksandr Zhukov said that "punishing the innocent is unjust and immoral."

"This completely contradicts the basic Olympic principles," he was quoted as telling the Russian news agency R-Sport in Lausanne.

But he praised the IOC's decision to allow clean competitors to compete as "Olympic athletes from Russia."

"They'll be called Russian athletes and not some kind of neutrals.... That's very important," he said.

The IOC said some Russian athletes would be allowed to compete "under strict conditions," including being free of past doping offenses, passing drug tests, and wearing a neutral uniform.

The IOC's executive board came to the decision after examining the findings and recommendations of a commission led by former Swiss President Samuel Schmid that has investigated the accusations of state-sponsored doping in Russia.

IOC Bans Russia From 2018 Winter Olympics
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A 2016 report commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) found widespread evidence of state-sponsored doping across many Olympic sports in Russia.

The WADA report also found evidence of a cover-up and said Russian security agents were involved in swapping positive urine samples for clean ones at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

'Systematic Manipulation'

The IOC said that Schmid's report confirmed "the systematic manipulation of the anti-doping rules and system in Russia."

Click here to see graphic

IOC President Thomas Bach said that the punitive measures targeting Russia came in response to"an unprecedented attack on the integrity of the Olympic Games and sport."

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a Facebook post following the announcement that Russia would persevere.

"We can never be knocked down," Zakharova wrote. "Not by a world war, not by the collapse of the Soviet Union, not by sanctions. We take it and we survive."

'Discrimination,' 'Fabricated': Muscovites React To Russia's Winter Olympics Ban
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'Proven Corruption'

Russian President Vladimir Putin and other Russian officials have all denied any state involvement in the string of doping cases that has led to the banning of dozens of Russian athletes over the past two years.

Schmid’s report, released in conjunction with the December 5 announcement of the ban, said that his commission "has not found any documented, independent, and impartial evidence confirming the support or the knowledge of this system by the highest state authority" in Russia.

Explainer: The IOC Ruling And Russia's Fate At The Winter Olympics

Several countries have previously been barred from participating in the Olympics, but the December 5 announcement was the first such ban on a national Olympic team due to doping.

The IOC announced several other punitive measures against Russia on December 5, including a lifetime ban against former Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko, a current deputy prime minister, on participation in future Olympics. Mutko had no immediate reaction.

The IOC also suspended Zhukov from membership on the Olympics committee, saying his membership was linked to his role as Russia's top Olympic official.

The heads of Russia's winter-sports federations expressed outrage over the decision and some Russian legislators pushed for a boycott of the Olympics.

"It's offensive and insulting. It is completely unjustified," Aleksei Kravtsov, president of the Russian Skating Union, told R-Sport agency.

The president of Russia's Bobsleigh Federation, Aleksandr Zubkov, told Russian TV that the IOC decision was a "humiliation" and a "punch in the stomach."

"The Olympic movement has discredited itself and there will be fundamental consequences to this," said Aleksei Kurashov, president of the Russian freestyle federation.

Russian state television company VGTRK said that it would not broadcast the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, the Russian news agency Interfax reported.

Before the IOC's decision the Kremlin had ruled out a boycott, saying it was "committed to Olympism." But President Putin has also said it would be "humiliating" for Russians to be barred from competing under the national flag.

Olympics chief Bach sought to dissuade the Kremlin from reacting with a boycott. "An Olympic boycott has never achieved anything," he said. "I don't see any reason for a boycott by the Russian athletes because we allow the clean athletes there to participate."

Moscow Blames Whistle-Blower

Russian prosecutors have accused the former head of Moscow's drug-testing lab, Grigory Rodchenkov, of being largely responsible for the doping scandal.

Rodchenkov became a whistle-blower and fled to the United States, where he lives in hiding. The IOC said last week that Rodchenkov was "truthful" in revealing a Russian doping "conspiracy" to the world.

Schmid told reporters in Lausanne on December 5 that the results of his report "are not based only on Grigoory Rodchenkov's testimony."

"There is scientific evidence, witness statements, documents, and correspondence," he said.

With reporting by AP, TASS, dpa, Reuters, USA Today, AFP, Interfax, and the BBC
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