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Russia's Olympic Committee Reinstated After Doping Scandal

Russia's ban from the Olympic movement was lifted on Wednesday despite two failed doping tests by its athletes at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.
Pavel Golovkin

After a major doping scandal limited Russia's participation at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, the country's Olympic committee has been formally reinstated by the International Olympic Committee.

This comes after the IOC said remaining test results from Russians who competed in the games came back negative.

In December, the IOC announced that Russia's Olympic committee was suspended because of the state-sponsored cheating. As NPR's Bill Chappell has reported, their athletes could still compete – but under the title of "Olympic Athlete from Russia." Their uniforms bore the Olympic symbol and they carried the Olympic Flag at the opening ceremony. One hundred and sixty-eight took part in the games as neutral athletes.

There was some speculation that Russia might be reinstated in time for the closing ceremony, allowing the athletes to march under the Russian flag. The country's Olympic committee paid some $15 million in fines.

But two Russian athletes failed doping tests — curling bronze medalist Alexander Krushelnitckii, whose mixed-doubles medal was stripped, and bobsledder Nadezhda Sergeeva. As Bill reported, the IOC said the failed tests and other factors "prevented the IOC from even considering lifting the suspension for the closing ceremony."

Now that all final results are in, the IOC says that Russia's suspension is "automatically lifted with immediate effect."

"We must turn this page," said Russian President Vladimir Putin at a ceremony for Olympians on Wednesday, according to The Associated Press. "We must draw relevant conclusions for ourselves, but I hope that international organizations also will eventually understand that sports must be kept away from problems unrelated to it."

The IOC's decision to ban Russia was prompted by a report from the World Anti-Doping agency led by law professor Richard McLaren.

"Released in two phases, the McLaren report concluded that Russia's scheme involved more than 1,000 Russian athletes and that it also included plans both for manipulating doping controls and for covering up the system," Bill reported.

Figure skater Alina Zagitova won the only individual gold medal by an athlete from Russia at this year's games. Head here for Bill's account of that medal ceremony, where the Olympic anthem played instead of the Russian one.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Merrit Kennedy is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She covers a broad range of issues, from the latest developments out of the Middle East to science research news.
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