December 05, 2017 03:56 PM
LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) - The International Olympic Committee says Russian athletes will be able to compete at the upcoming Pyeongchang Olympics in 2018 as neutrals. The IOC, which also suspended the Russian Olympic Committee and IOC member Alexander Zhukov, says some competitors will be invited to participate as an "Olympic Athlete from Russia (OAR)" without their national flag or anthem.
Russia could refuse the offer and boycott the games.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has previously said it would be humiliating for Russia to compete without national symbols.
The IOC also imposed a fine of $15 million on the Russian Olympic committee.
The committee banned Russian Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko for life from the Olympics for his role in the country's doping program. Mutko, who was sports minister at the time of the 2014 Sochi Olympics, remains head of the 2018 World Cup organizing committee. Yuri Nagornykh, Russia's deputy minister of sport was also banned from attending any future games.
IOC commission chairman Samuel Schmid says the doping program "was under the authority of the Russian sports ministry. That is why the then sports minister has responsibility for the failure of this system."
Mutko appeared at the Kremlin last week alongside FIFA President Gianni Infantino. There was no immediate comment from FIFA on Mukto's continuing role as head of the Russian soccer federation and the World Cup organizing committee.
The IOC also ruled the Kremlin was not responsible for the widespread doping.
An IOC disciplinary commission under Samuel Schmid "has not found any documented, independent and impartial evidence confirming the support or the knowledge of this system by the highest state authority."
The International Olympic Committee did not bar Russia from the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. The IOC instead asked sports governing bodies to decide which athletes could compete.
As for the athletes, the immediate reaction from many athletes after the International Olympic Committee's decision was this: Will Russia compete at all?
Russia was likely to be a medal factor at the Pyeongchang Games in several sliding sports, primarily men's bobsled, men's skeleton, women's skeleton and men's luge.
USA Luge veteran Chris Mazdzer says many Russians on the World Cup luge circuit had told him in recent weeks that they expected a full ban, and he's wondering if President Vladimir Putin could decide to boycott.
"Putin could just say, 'You can't compete,' and they won't," Mazdzer said.
Erin Hamlin, who won a bronze medal in women's luge at the 2014 Sochi Games, says she wouldn't be surprised if Russians weren't in Pyeongchang at all.
"Russia is such a proud nation," Hamlin said. "It wouldn't surprise me if they were not allowed to."
Created: December 05, 2017 03:56 PM
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