Russia banned from 2018 Winter Olympics over doping scandal

Last Updated Dec 5, 2017 8:05 PM EST

LAUSANNE, Switzerland -- The International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced Tuesday that it has suspended Russia's Olympic team from competing in the 2018 Winter Olympics over the country's doping scandal. The committee said it will allow athletes from the country to compete as neutrals at Pyeongchang Games.

The IOC suspended the Russian Olympic committee and IOC member Alexander Zhukov, and also banned Russian Deputy Prime Minister Vilaty Mutko from the Olympics for life. Mutko was the sports minister in 2014 and is the head of the organizing committee of soccer's next World Cup.

The Russian Olympic committee was also fined $15 million to pay for the investigation and future anti-doping work. The sanctions could be challenged at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

"This was an unprecedented attack on the integrity of the Olympic Games and sport," IOC President Thomas Bach said in a statement Tuesday.

Russia could refuse the offer to compete as neutrals and boycott the games. Russian President Vladimir Putin previously said it would be humiliating for Russia to compete without national symbols, and is expected to speak publicly about the ruling in Moscow on Wednesday.

Shortly after the announcement, Interfax news agency reported that Russian state-owned broadcaster VGTRK said it would not broadcast the 2018 Winter Olympics without the Russian team's participation.

"An Olympic boycott has never achieved anything," Bach said at a news conference. "Secondly, I don't see any reason for a boycott by the Russian athletes because we allow the clean athletes there to participate." The sanctions could be challenged at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

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Thomas Bach, left, and Samuel Schmid attend a press conference following an executive meeting on Russian doping, on Dec. 5, 2017, in Lausanne. 

FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty

The Russian doping program caused "unprecedented damage to Olympism and sports," said IOC-appointed investigator Samuel Schmid, the former president of Switzerland who was asked to verify an "institutional conspiracy."

Russia has repeatedly refused to accept that a state-sponsored doping program existed. Such denials helped ensure bans on its track federation and anti-doping agency have not been lifted.

Instead, Russia blames Grigory Rodchenkov, the former director of Moscow and Sochi testing laboratories, as a rogue employee. It wants the scientist extradited from the United States, where he is a protected witness.

The executive board reached its decision Tuesday after a scheduled 4½-hour debate when it heard from a Russian delegation that included world figure skating champion Evgenia Medvedeva. The delegation was led by Zhukov, who was later suspended.

Two IOC commission leaders -- appointed after World Anti-Doping Agency investigator Richard McLaren upheld Rodchenkov's doping claims in July 2016 -- also reported to the Olympic board.

Schmid's report included a 50-page sworn affidavit from Rodchenkov, who was also a key witness for McLaren and an IOC disciplinary commission.

The chairman of that disciplinary panel, Swiss lawyer Denis Oswald, reported about prosecuting Russian athletes implicated in cheating at the 2014 Sochi Games. By Monday, 25 Russians had been disqualified from the Sochi Games and banned from the Olympics for life, and 11 medals were stripped. One Russian was cleared.

Russia no longer leads the Sochi medals table. Even before the IOC reallocates the stripped medals, the United States has the most total medals and Norway has the most golds. The banned Russian athletes have said they will appeal against the Oswald judgments at the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne.

Any sanctions imposed by the IOC can also be challenged at CAS, and later at Switzerland's supreme court, which can intervene if  legal process has been abused. The IOC said a panel of officials chaired by former France Sports Minister Valerie Fourneyron will decide which athletes to accept at the Olympics in February.