Russia has vowed to staunchly “defend” the interests of its athletes as the International Olympic Committee weighs up whether to exclude the country from near year’s Winter Olympics in South Korea over alleged state-sponsored doping.
The IOC’s executive board, chaired by president Thomas Bach, will determine Tuesday if Russia is to face any penalties including a blanket ban from the Games in PyeongChang, which are less than nine weeks away.
During his regular daily call with reporters, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia remains “committed to the ideals of the Olympism and to keep all contacts with the IOC and, through these contacts, and, through these contacts, resolve all problems.”
Peskov added that Moscow would prefer to “remain silent right now until the IOC announces the decision.”
How we got here
Moscow has repeatedly rejected any accusations of institutionalized doping, as suggested by the independent reports by Canadian law professor Richard McLaren in 2015, which concluded that more than 1,000 athletes benefited from a systematic doping program across 30 sports between 2011 and 2015.
An IOC panel last month expunged and barred 25 Russian athletes (22 of whom were medal winners) from participating at PyeongChang for doping violations at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games.
This has subsequently seen Russia — an Olympic powerhouse — drop retrospectively from first place in the medal table at the 2014 Winter Olympics to fourth position.
Anti-doping agencies from around the globe are putting pressure on the IOC to hold Russia accountable for the doping scandal which has overshadowed athletics.
They argue that any inaction cheats clean athletes and jeopardizes the legitimacy of the Olympic movement if countries are allowed to intentionally violate rules without any meaningful consequences.
While this will be one of the biggest judgments the IOC has ever been asked to determine, it’s not like we haven’t been here before.
Eighteen months ago in the lead to the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics, a three-person IOC panel cleared Russia to participate despite mounting calls for the entire country’s team to be banned.
How it could play out
Many in Russia see themselves as the target of a politicized crusade intended to sully the country’s reputation and prevent future sporting accolades.
According to Keir Radnedge, an Olympics commentator, the IOC has several options on the table.
He has mapped out five scenarios the 15-person IOC Executive Board could choose:
• Blanket ban
• Order Russian athletes to compete under a neutral flag
• Allow individual sporting federations to rule on Russian participation (this would be similar to what happened ahead of Rio)
• Allow Russia to participate but under threat of total exclusion from Tokyo 2020 if a settlement on the issue is not determined in the next two years
• Issue a hefty fine.
The IOC is due to deliver its final verdict from its headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. local (1:30 p.m. ET).