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Russian Olympic Team Barred From 2018 Winter Games

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Russian athletes walk in the closing ceremonies for the Winter Olympics, at Fisht Olympic Stadium in Sochi, Russia, Feb. 23, 2014. - JOSH HANER/THE NEW YORK TIMES
  • Josh Haner/The New York Times
  • Russian athletes walk in the closing ceremonies for the Winter Olympics, at Fisht Olympic Stadium in Sochi, Russia, Feb. 23, 2014.

By REBECCA R. RUIZ and TARIQ PANJA
© 2017 New York Times News Service

LAUSANNE, Switzerland — Russia’s Olympic team has been barred from the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. The country’s government officials are forbidden to attend, its flag will not be displayed at the opening ceremony and its anthem will not sound. Any athletes from Russia who receive special dispensation to compete will do so as individuals wearing a neutral uniform, and the official record books will forever show that Russia won zero medals.

That was the punishment issued Tuesday to the proud sports juggernaut that has long used the Olympics as a show of global force but was exposed for systematic doping in previously unfathomable ways. The International Olympic Committee, after completing its own prolonged investigations that reiterated what had been known for more than a year, handed Russia penalties for doping so severe they were without precedent in Olympics history.

Some Russian officials have threatened to boycott if the IOC delivered such a severe punishment. The news broke late in the evening in Moscow when an immediate official reaction was unlikely.

In barring Russia’s team, Olympic officials left the door open for some Russian athletes. Those with histories of rigorous drug testing may petition for permission to compete in neutral uniforms. Although it is unknown exactly how many will clear that bar, it is certain that the contingent from Russia will be depleted significantly.

The Russian Olympic Committee was also fined $15 million on Tuesday.

Thomas Bach, the president of the IOC, has said he was perturbed not only by Russia’s widespread cheating but by how it had been accomplished: by corrupting the Olympic laboratory that handled drug testing at the games, and on orders from Russia’s own Olympic officials.

In an elaborate overnight operation at the 2014 Sochi Games, a team assembled by Russia’s sports ministry tampered with more than 100 urine samples to conceal evidence of top athletes’ steroid use. More than two dozen Russian athletes have been disqualified from the Sochi standings as a result, and Olympic officials are still sorting through the tainted results.