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Russia Awaits Decision On Winter Olympics Ban Over Doping Allegations


The IOC is taking a stronger approach to the Winter Olympics, given that the most serious allegations against Russia relate to its hosting of the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi.

Russia is slated to learn on December 5 whether the International Olympic Committee (IOC) will ban its athletes from the Winter Olympics in February over allegations of state-sponsored doping.

The committee has heard from all sides in the run-up to what could be one of its most important decisions ever on doping in the premier sports event.

While other nations' Olympics teams have questioned whether Russia should be allowed to participate, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko made a last-minute appeal to the committee, saying, "We are relying on common sense, on the IOC Charter, on the assumption that no one abolished the presumption of innocence."

The IOC has not in the past imposed a total ban for doping, instead passing the decision on individual athletes to the international federations governing each individual sport.

With the exception of one athlete, Russia was barred from track-and-field events and weightlifting at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, but it was allowed to field teams in other sports.

But the IOC is taking a stronger approach to the Winter Olympics, given that the most serious allegations against Russia relate to its hosting of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Some 25 individual Russians have been barred from the February 9-25 games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, after the committee ruled they had used banned drugs in Sochi.

No matter what the IOC decides, those 25 will not be allowed to participate in Pyeongchang unless they manage to get their bans overturned on appeal.

IOC President Thomas Bach is scheduled to announce the decision in Lausanne, Switzerland.

INFOGRAPHIC: 10 Russian Tricks To Stymie International Anti-Doping Teams (click to view)

The IOC could also take less sweeping action, including imposing a fine on Russia or allowing individual athletes to compete not officially as Russians but as "neutrals," as many have in other sporting events such as the 2017 World Athletics Championships.

A 2016 report commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) found widespread evidence of state-sponsored doping across many Olympic sports in Russia, as well as a cover-up, and said security agents were involved in swapping positive urine samples for clean ones at Sochi.

Seventeen national anti-doping organizations demanded in September that Russia be banned from the 2018 Olympics, citing "proven corruption of the Sochi 2014 games and continuing failure in its obligations to clean sport."

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.

Putin's spokesman, Dmirty Peskov, said on December 4 that a Russian boycott of the Olympics was "not being discussed."

"We are against the infringement of our athletes' rights, the unjustifiable infringement of rights. But at the same time, Russia remains committed to the ideals of Olympism," Peskov told reporters in a regularly held conference call.

Peskov suggested that Putin had decided against a boycott and said the decision was aimed at "preserving all possible channels of cooperation and dialogue with the IOC, as well as with other international sports organizations."

Gracenote Sports, a company that forecasts likely medal winners, has predicted Russia will win 21 medals at Pyeongchang, including six golds, if it is allowed to compete.

Six golds would likely put Russia in eighth place among countries, while the 21 total would likely put it in fifth place on the overall table, according to Gracenote's forecast.

Among other things, a blanket ban would keep Russia out of the men's ice-hockey competition, in which it is a perennial powerhouse.

The competition will not include participation by players from clubs in North America's National Hockey League (NHL), which announced in April that it would not schedule a break for the Olympics in the 2017-18 season.

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