Almost ever since the very inception of the Modern Olympic Games in 1896, the Russian contingent has had a very interesting history as far as grappling for glory is concerned. The Winter Games saw the participation of the Russians, as the Russian Empire for the first time in the year 1900. While they had skipped participation in the year 1904, they came back again in 1908 and 1912.
After the establishment of the Soviet Union in the year 1922, there was a partial fallow for almost thirty years following which the Russians participated for the first time as the Soviet Union in the 1952 Summer Olympics. Russia, after the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991, participated as Unified Team in 1992 and finally came back again as Russia in the 1994 Winter Olympics.
It almost goes without saying that Russians have been a brute force in the Winter Games and if mere words are not trust-worthy surely their tally of 427 medals in the Summer Olympics, 113 medals in the Winter Olympics and 540 medals in the 12 Olympic tournaments following the year 1994 bears testimony to the fact that the Russians have been the doyen of Modern Olympic Games. Their tally of 540 medals including 194 gold medals since 1994 is only second to the USA which again speaks volumes about their authority in the Winter Games.
However, in light of the recent speculations and investigations, The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has decided to ban the Russian contingent from participating in the 2018 Winter Olympic Games to be hosted in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Moreover, it went on to ban all Russian Government officials from attending the event and added that the flag will not be hoisted and the anthem will not be played.
Russian athletes who receive a special exemption will be allowed to participate but only in neutral uniforms. The official record of Russia’s medal tally will consequently read zero medals and this stands binding. This ruthless measure comes as a direct consequence of the investigation carried out by the IOC which alleged the Russians to be guilty of crafting a voluminous state-backed doping campaign. In fact, the IOC reiterated that there has been a prolonged ill-use of the stimulants by the Russian athletes in order to get the better of their compatriots at the highest level. It will be interesting to see how Russia responds to this decision as this, and it goes without saying, positively taints Russia’s image as juggernauts in the entire sports fraternity.
It is not the first time that the International Olympic Committee has come up with this grave a decision. Going a few years down the line in December 2012, the Indian Olympic Association was also banned by the IOC after the government had interfered with the autonomy of the National Olympic Committee. On December 31st, the following year, IOC announced that their athletes can only participate as independent Olympic participants and not under the Indian Flag in the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games. The IOC was of the opinion that the government influence in the voting process could result in an undeserving candidate taking over as the Secretary-General and hence dismissed the previously held elections to be null and void.
Lalit Bhanot who was already serving an imprisonment of 11 months following charges of sleaze that inundated the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi was set to become the then secretary general after the opposition parties pulled out of the elections. After several discussions and deliberations, the IOC finally reinstituted the Indian Olympic Committee following the election of Narayana Ramachandran as its chairman not before three Indian athletes had participated as independent athletes competing under the Olympic flag and not the tricolour in the erstwhile Sochi Olympic Games.
The present scenario is, however, a lot more exigent and alarming. While addressing the topic, Russian President Vladimir Putin has expressed his discontent and hinted at a possible boycott of the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. He has also ridiculed all the allegations put forth by the IOC and expressed how this doping scandal is sullying the country’s reputation. Though the IOC has banned the Russians from participating, some Russian athletes might be given the green signal after passing a rigorous doping test which is to be carried out by a separate panel appointed by the International Olympic Committee.
Thomas Bach, the President of IOC expressed his dissatisfaction by quipping that Russia had not only resorted to cheap tactics of using unfair means but they have also tampered the drug samples from the Olympic laboratory which was assigned to handle the drug testing operations for the 2018 Winter Games. The Russian Olympic Committee has been fined a mammoth 15 million dollars and this money will apparently be used by government officials to carry out anti-doping campaigns. Rigory Rodchenkov, the chemist who was Russia’s anti-doping lab chief for 10 years believes that the decision is a bit too harsh for the athletes. He suggested that the decision could have been banning the Russian Olympic Committee for a couple of years or until the regulators rectify the national anti-doping operations.
While opinions continue to differ, one thing is certain. The verdict of this multitude is massive enough to not only shatter a million Olympic dreams but, in hindsight, have serious consequences for the most awaited FIFA World Cup scheduled to be held in Russia next year.