Florian Choblet | AFP | Getty Images
Russia’s athletes arrive during the closing ceremony of the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at the Pyeongchang Stadium on February 25, 2018.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) dashed Russian athletes’ hopes of marching behind their national flag at the Winter Games closing ceremony on Sunday, deciding against immediately lifting Russia’s Olympic suspension after fresh doping violations.
Russians have been competing as neutral athletes at the Games, their Olympic status suspended, as IOC punishment for years of drug scandals involving allegations that Russia ran a systematic, state-backed drug-cheating program.
The IOC said two Russian doping violations during the Pyeongchang Games had marred an otherwise clean report card for the delegation at the Games, though later on Sunday, Russia’s ice hockey team violated the IOC’s rules on neutrality by singing the Russian national anthem.
IOC President Thomas Bach said the two positive doping tests were impossible to ignore in making the decision to keep the suspension in place until after the Games close.
“This was hugely disappointing and, in addition to other considerations, prevented the IOC from even considering lifting the suspension for the closing ceremony,” IOC President Thomas Bach said in presenting the recommendation to IOC members.
Bach said Russia’s Olympic status would be restored automatically once it was confirmed there were no other doping violations by Russian athletes at Pyeongchang.
“That is an automatic decision,” he told reporters. “This is an objective condition… and then the sanction is lifted.”
The suspended Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) said it hoped to return to the Olympic family 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.”